What is Diabetes?
Diabetes, known medically as diabetes mellitus, is by nature a metabolic disease, meaning that it causes issues with our bodies’ abilities to carry out chemical reactions relating to energy production.
The specific issue regarding diabetes has to do with insulin. Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas that helps to move glucose (sugar) from food into our cells in order to produce energy. The types of diabetes differ in the issues stemming from the body’s treatment of insulin:
● Type 1 Diabetes happens when the body simply does not produce insulin at all. The body is thus unable to process any sort of glucose.
● Type 2 Diabetes is the more common condition, and occurs when the body either resists the effects of insulin and further into disease progression, does not produce enough insulin to maintain normal blood sugar levels.
● Prediabetes is when blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to constitute a type 2 diagnosis.
What causes Diabetes?
Although many might say that diabetes is caused by eating too many sugar-rich foods, that might be an oversimplification. Eating too many sugary foods could cause one to gain excess weight and become obese, which is one of the risk factors of diabetes. However, extensive research has not made any relations between sugar consumption and diabetes development.
The prevalence of diabetes is, in fact, difficult to pinpoint, as many top scientists and medical experts have discovered. The exact cause of diabetes is still to this day unknown.
There are, however, many general risk factors of diabetes that we can be aware of and deal with accordingly (if possible) to minimize the chances of diabetes taking root.
● Being overweight can contribute to type 2 diabetes development.
● Having excessive fat distribution in the abdominal area can be another risk for diabetes.
● Physical inactivity can become a diabetes-related issue, as regular exercise not only helps to maintain weight levels but also aids in using up glucose for energy and making one’s cells more sensitive to insulin.
● Genetics is a common risk factor. It is well known that if a parent or sibling has type 1 or 2 diabetes, it leaves one susceptible to the disease as well.
● Diabetes can become more of a threat at an older age, especially past the age of 45 where the risk doubles. This does not mean that younger people are risk-free.
● Having prediabetes is a stark warning sign that it could very well progress to become type 2 diabetes.
Symptoms & Complications of Diabetes
Although diabetes symptoms may vary across cases and types, there are some generally common ones that can show up.
Some of them are:
● Excessive urination
● Incredibly thirst and hunger
● Blurry vision
● Notice wounds that heal slowly or not at all
● Experiencing tingling or numb sensations in extremities
Type 1 diabetes has some unique symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and stomach pains. They can also develop in the short term within weeks or months and tend to be more severe.
On the contrary, type 2 diabetes symptoms can take years to form and go unnoticed, sometimes not even having any overt symptoms to begin with.
If left unchecked and untreated, diabetes can rage within the body and cause a number of serious health issues, potentially leading to some fatal conditions.
Diabetes is a major risk factor in itself for cardiovascular issues such as high blood pressure, stroke and heart attack. The circulatory system can also sustain damage from diabetes, where excess unprocessed sugar can damage capillaries and affect nervous systems, resulting in loss of feeling as mentioned above.
In addition, diabetes can damage the kidney, and cause issues within the body’s filtration system leading to an inability to filter waste properly. This can lead to kidney failure of more serious conditions that require dialysis or even a transplant.
Serious, untreated diabetes is a stepping board for other conditions to become more prominent, elevating them to higher levels of threat. For the eyes, cataracts and glaucoma become common worries, with blindness being a possibility. Amputation of limbs where minor cuts or blisters get infected is also common. Pregnant women can even suffer miscarriages, stillbirth, or birth defects.
Treatment of Diabetes
Diabetes has no known cure. There are only temporary treatments, the most notable of which is of course insulin.
Type 1 diabetes patients require consistent insulin doses multiple times throughout the day. This can be taken through a number of methods such as pumps, inhalers, pen injectors, or syringe shots. This insulin intake, unfortunately, has to be maintained, and there is no other alternative as there is no way to restore the destroyed insulin-production cells within the pancreas.
Type 2 diabetes patients also need insulin, but not as much as type 1 patients. Type 2 patients will also need to make a number of lifestyle changes such as a diet shift and exercise pattern, all of which are needed to manage blood sugar levels.
Together with lifestyle changes, type 2 patients can also take different kinds of medication for the purposes of reducing blood sugar levels and increasing insulin effectiveness. The medications involved are extensive, complicated, and required on a case-to-case basis, so doctors will know best which to prescribe for each patient.
Prevention of Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes might not be something that can be controlled considering the unpredictable nature of contraction with it being a more hereditary issue. On the other hand, type 2 diabetes can be somewhat prevented with a shift in daily lifestyle.
Firstly, weight control can help prevent type 2 diabetes considering that weight is a major risk factor. Being obese can lead to being 80 times more likely to develop diabetes than someone with a BMI of less than 22.
Secondly, an active and regular exercise routine helps to develop musculature, pushing them to use insulin more efficiently as well as absorb glucose better. This can take off the stress from the insulin-producing cells and lessen the risk of them failing.
Lastly, dietary habits such as high levels of sugar-rich food consumption like soft drinks can lead to excessive weight gain. Processed foods like bacon, sausages, and ham can increase diabetes risk, and switching over to alternative protein sources like nuts or fish can lower diabetes risk too.