What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a metabolic disorder that affects the way body utilizes digested food (in form of sugar – glucose is body’s main fuel) for growth and energy.
The hormone insulin, produced by the pancreas, is required for entry of glucose into the cells. In normal condition, the pancreas produces the right amount of insulin necessary to facilitate entry of glucose into cells. However, the pancreas produces too little or no insulin or the body fails to respond to the present insulin in people with diabetes. This leads to glucose build up in the blood stream, which then passes out in the urine. Thus, even though the body has a large amount of glucose in the bloodstream, it cannot provide the cells with the fuel they require.
The major types of diabetes are:
- Type 1 diabetes – The pancreas produces little or no insulin as the body’s immune system destroys its insulin-producing cells (autoimmune disease).
- Type 2 diabetes – This is the most common type of diabetes in which the pancreas produces normal amounts of insulin, but the body is unable to use it (insulin resistance).
- Gestational diabetes – Some women develop diabetes in the later stages of pregnancy, though it usually disappears after the birth of the baby.
What one needs to know about symptoms or signs?
Symptoms of type 1 diabetes include:
- High levels of sugar in blood and urine
- Increased hunger and thirst
- Weight loss
- Frequent urination
- Nausea and vomiting
- Mood swings
Symptoms of type 2 diabetes are similar but may also include blurred vision, dry skin and skin infections. Symptoms develop gradually in type 2 diabetes, while type 1 diabetes progresses faster.
Which specialist should be consulted in case of signs and symptoms?
Individuals experiencing any of the above symptoms must consult their primary physician, who would refer the patient to an endocrinologist (specialist in diabetes and other disorders).
What are the screening tests and investigations done to confirm or rule out the disorder?
Fasting blood glucose test is most commonly used for diagnosing diabetes. Blood is drawn in fasting condition and once again after a meal. A blood glucose level of 126 mg/dL or higher after eight-hour fast signals diabetes. Alternatively, a blood glucose level of 200 mg/dL or higher at any time of day also indicates diabetes. Gestational diabetes is also determined through a blood test for glucose level, but the cutoff levels vary since glucose levels in pregnant women are lower.
What treatment modalities are available for management of the disorder?
Let’s treat diabetes! A healthy diet, physical activity and insulin injections at regular intervals are used to treat and control type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Patients with type 2 diabetes also require oral medication or insulin, or both to control blood glucose levels.
What are the known complications in management of the disorder?
Diabetes is associated with complications that affect almost every part of the body. These include heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, amputation, and nerve damage. Uncontrolled diabetes can also complicate pregnancy or lead to birth defects in babies.
What precautions or steps are necessary to stay healthy and happy during the treatment?
Type 1 diabetes’ patients must take the regular insulin injections as prescribed by their doctor. Type 2 diabetes can be managed through a healthy diet and exercise routine.
How can the disorder be prevented from happening or recurring?
Significant research is being conducted to decipher the role of genes in triggering diabetes in some individuals. However, studies also show the effect of regular exercise in reducing the risk to the disease.
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“Basics About Diabetes,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/consumer/learn.htm
“Diabetes Overview,” Diabetes.niddk.nih.gov, National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse (NDIC), http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/overview/
“Diabetes Overview,” WebMD.com, http://www.webmd.com/diabetes/diabetes-overview
“What is Diabetes?” Diabetes.co.UK, http://www.diabetes.co.uk/what-is-diabetes.html