Diabetes mellitus refers to a group of diseases that affect how the body uses blood sugar (glucose). Glucose is an important source of energy for the cells that make up the muscles and tissues. It's also the brain's main source of fuel.
The main cause of diabetes varies by type. But no matter what type of diabetes you have, it can lead to excess sugar in the blood. Too much sugar in the blood can lead to serious health problems.
Chronic diabetes conditions include type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes. Potentially reversible diabetes conditions include prediabetes and gestational diabetes. Prediabetes happens when blood sugar levels are higher than normal. But the blood sugar levels aren't high enough to be called diabetes. And prediabetes can lead to diabetes unless steps are taken to prevent it. Gestational diabetes happens during pregnancy. But it may go away after the baby is born.
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Types of Diabetes
Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is thought to be caused by an autoimmune reaction (the body attacks itself by mistake). This reaction stops your body from making insulin. Approximately 5-10% of the people who have diabetes have type 1. Type 1 diabetes can be diagnosed at any age, and symptoms often develop quickly. If you have type 1 diabetes, you’ll need to take insulin every day to survive. Currently, no one knows how to prevent type 1 diabetes.
Type 2 Diabetes
With type 2 diabetes, your body doesn’t use insulin well and can’t keep blood sugar at normal levels. About 90-95% of people with diabetes have type 2. It develops over many years and is usually diagnosed in adults (but more and more in children, teens, and young adults). You may not notice any symptoms, so it’s important to get your blood sugar tested if you’re at risk. Type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed with healthy lifestyle changes, such as:
Eating healthy food.
Symptoms of diabetes
Diabetes symptoms are caused by rising blood sugar.
The symptoms of type 1, type 2, and type 1.5 (LADA) are the same, but they occur in a shorter period than types 2 and 1.5. In type 2, the onset tends to be slower. Tingling nerves and slow-healing sores are more common in type 2.
Left untreated, type 1, in particular, can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis. This is when there is a dangerous level of ketones in the body. It’s less common in other types of diabetes, but still possible.
The general symptoms of diabetes include:
sores that don’t heal
Symptoms in men
In addition to the general symptoms of diabetes, men with diabetes may have:
a decreased sex drive
poor muscle strength
Symptoms in women
Women with diabetes can have symptoms such as:
urinary tract infections
dry, itchy skin
Most of us have an incomplete or incorrect understanding of this little devil of a disease. Here are a few lesser-known facts about diabetes and diabetes management that may surprise you, and some new information that may help you feel more empowered to take charge of your health.
1.Having a Sweet Tooth Doesn't Cause Diabetes
Diabetes is a disease where blood sugar levels are high. Hence, people with diabetes are often advised to control their sugar intake. Merely having a sweet tooth or eating "too much" sugar, however, doesn't cause diabetes in a healthy person. The reality is your risk of diabetes increases due to many interrelated factors. Diabetes is a disease associated with other factors such as being overweight or obese, leading a sedentary lifestyle and having unhealthy eating habits, including a high intake of refined carbohydrates, saturated fats and trans fats. The risk of diabetes further increases for someone who has an immediate family member with diabetes, so eating too much sugar alone won't give you diabetes.
2. Diabetes is a Lifelong Deal
Many people believe the medicines prescribed by their doctors will help cure diabetes once and for all. The fact remains, however, that diabetes, once developed, is a lifelong condition. While it can't be cured completely, it can be managed. With proper diabetes management, including medications and lifestyle modifications, you can lead a normal and fulfilling life.
3. Diabetes Can Affect People of Any Age or Lifestyle
Although being overweight and having an unhealthy lifestyle makes you more prone to diabetes, lean people can also face the condition. Similarly, diabetes is not restricted to the older age group. In fact, three-fourths of the people with diabetes belong to the working-age group. Many children and adolescents have type 1 diabetes, too.
4. Type 2 Diabetes isn't Milder than Type 1 Diabetes
Diabetes can be defined as type 1 or type 2 but not mild or severe. It is just about how well-controlled blood sugar levels and other risk factors are. Untreated or neglected diabetes can lead to serious and permanent complications. The complications of diabetes can be diverse, affect many organs and lead to vision loss, kidney problems or decreased ability to heal, for example.
The good news is proper diabetes management can help people not only lead a perfectly normal life but also avoid complications arising from prolonged uncontrolled diabetes. You can discuss with your doctor about what diabetes management methods work for you. Medications and/or insulin, along with regular blood glucose monitoring and lifestyle changes, can help you achieve these targets.
5. Diabetes Affects More Than Blood Sugar Levels
In India, the layman term for diabetes is 'high blood sugar,' and people seriously believe it to be so. However, diabetes management is not only about taking an insulin injection or declining a sugary dessert to keep your blood sugar levels in check.
Medical research has shown that diabetes can affect multiple body systems and can cause a variety of problems. For example, diabetes increases the risk of heart-related problems. Hence, while it's important to keep a check on blood sugar, it is also advisable to undergo a regular checkup to identify any other problems in a timely manner.
6. People with Diabetes May Not Need to Restrict All Sugar
It's a common notion that having diabetes and getting started on treatment means you have to refrain from absolutely all sweets. However, with well-controlled blood glucose levels and regular exercise, it's generally safe to have a sweet once in a while. The key is not to indulge and to keep your portion size small. Save the sweet treat for special occasions.
7. A Diagnosis of Diabetes Can Be Emotionally Challenging
Diabetes and depression often go hand in hand, with one increasing the risk of other.
Research suggests that some cases of diabetes and depression share similar biological origins. Hormonal imbalance as well as high blood glucose in diabetes causes an imbalance in the neurotransmitters, ultimately causing depression. The feeling of "Why me?" at the time of diagnosis can begin the series of negative emotions like anger, denial, disbelief or depression. The emotional turmoil a person with diabetes undergoes adds to the weight of depression.
It's best to avoid such negativity and look for help from a counsellor when such feelings begin. And don't be afraid to reach out to your loved ones; a bit of emotional support from your friends and family will keep you motivated to lead a more fulfilling life.
8. Prediabetes is Reversible
Unlike full-blown diabetes, prediabetes causes slightly high blood glucose levels. Without proper care, prediabetes can lead to a diabetes diagnosis and the serious issues that come with it. To preempt this development, it's important to keep an eye on your blood glucose levels during your regular medical checkups, especially if you have prediabetes or a family history of diabetes.
If your blood sugar levels concern your doctor, talk to them about proper lifestyle changes, dietary modifications and ways to lose any excess weight to help you prevent a diabetes diagnosis.
9. Adequate Diabetes Management Can Prevent Foot and Leg Complications
An internet search on diabetes complications results in an array of visuals of foot complications. Fear of diabetes complications often creates anxiety and stress among people with diabetes.
Do not get intimidated and overwhelmed! Foot-related problems in diabetes occur due to poor blood circulation, damage to the nerves and slower healing.
Proper diabetes care and regular inspection of your feet can help to avoid such problems, so consult your doctor as soon as you notice any problem.
10. Insulin May Be Necessary Anyway
Despite being particular about your medications, diet and exercise, your blood glucose levels may be high and your doctor may tell you to start taking insulin. You may feel guilty — like you have failed to take care of your diabetes. However, the fact is diabetes progresses slowly with time.
The disease that was initially manageable with diet and exercise may ultimately need insulin to maintain a normal blood glucose level. The key is to keep your blood glucose levels in a normal range, be it with lifestyle or insulin, and one does not mean failure over another.
Understanding facts about the disease will help you achieve better control over diabetes. All you need is timely medical advice and the motivation to stay healthy!