A few years ago diabetes was a little known disease. However, in today’s age, our current habits - including excess calorie consumption and a sedentary lifestyle - are affecting world statistics for this disease. Every day more and more people are affected by diabetes.
It is a chronic disease which can negatively affect our quality of life, causing several complications.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes develops when our body loses the ability to produce insulin, or when the body doesn’t properly respond to insulin.
Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas, and carries glucose (sugar) to cells. This allows the cells to obtain the necessary energy for bodily functions.
When diabetes is present, the cells in our body don’t absorb glucose well, allowing it to continue circulating in our blood. This is what is known as hyperglycemia, and over time causes several complications.
Types of diabetes
There are currently three known types of diabetes.
Type 1 Diabetes: This diabetes presents mainly in children, however it can develop at any age. This involves the body’s ability to produce insulin, or rather, the body produces very little of this hormone. Treatment involves providing daily insulin injections.
Type 2 Diabetes: As the most common type of diabetes, it frequently develops during adulthood. However, there are currently adolescents and younger children being diagnosed with this type of diabetes.
Gestational Diabetes: This type appears during pregnancy in women who have not had diabetes prior to pregnancy. The changes that take place during pregnancy can provoke this type of diabetes, which is why it is advisable to be at a healthy weight before conceiving, and to watch your weight while pregnant with a healthy diet.
Symptoms occur when blood glucose levels are raised and out of control.
- Unexplained loss of weight
- Blurry vision
- Cotton mouth, increase in thirst
- Increased frequency of urination
These symptoms disappear when diabetes is treated with proper dietary and pharmacological treatment. Once glucose levels in the blood are regulated, the individual should not experience these symptoms. Controlling diabetes also prevents further complications.
If you experience any of these symptoms it is possible that the doctor may order certain tests to diagnose diabetes.
Fasting blood glucose test: A blood draw will be taken to measure glucose levels. You are required to fast for at least 8 hours before the blood draw. If your levels are higher than 126 mg/dl, you will be suggested to take another draw. If the result is similar, diabetes is then confirmed. If your levels are less than 126 mg/dl but greater than 110 mg/dl, you are considered to be glucose intolerant, and it is important to make significant dietary changes and habits to prevent diabetes.
Glucose oral tolerance curve: This test also requires fasting for at least 8 hours. The patient drinks a dissolved glucose solution, and then later subjects to a blood glucose analysis. If the result is greater than 200 mg/dl, diabetes is then confirmed.
Blood glucose: Any glucose measurement during the day higher than 200 mg/dl, along with the aforementioned symptoms, also confirms diabetes.
The most conventional treatment for diabetes today consists of pharmaceuticals or insulin treatments, along with dietary care.
First and foremost, you should avoid eating simple sugars, such as refined sugar, caramels, sweets and any foods containing simple sugars, such as cakes, ice cream, chocolates, etc.
Also, a regular exercise routine is recommended for diabetes treatment.
There are several diabetes complications, but is blood glucose levels are not controlled, complications can develop. Some of these are irreversible and affect the patient’s quality of life.
High glucose levels, over time, can affect organs like the liver, the eyes (retinopathy), along with the nerve endings in the extremities (diabetic neuropathy). Unfortunately, these complications are frequently very serious, and in many cases irreversible. That’s why control is so important to prevent them.
Diabetes also raises the risk for cardiac disease and affects our bone and joint health.
Lastly, there is the diabetic coma, related to Type 2 diabetes. This occurs when glucose levels are extremely high, usually above 600 mg/dl. Symptoms, as the name indicates, are coma, lethargy and convulsions.
Controlling diabetes helps to prevent these complications, which is why it is important to follow treatment guidelines, mainly by watching our diet and including exercise as part of our daily routine.