What is Diabetes?

Diabetes mellitus refers to a group of diseases that affect how your body uses blood sugar (glucose)Glucose is vital to your health because it’s an important source of energy for the cells that make up your muscles and tissues. It’s also your brain’s main source of fuel.

The underlying cause of diabetes varies by type. But, no matter what type of diabetes you have, it can lead to excess sugar in your blood. Too much sugar in your blood can lead to serious health problems.

Fast Facts on Diabetes:

Here are some key points about diabetes.

  1. Diabetes is a long-term condition that causes high blood sugar levels.
  2. In 2013 it was estimated that over 382 million people throughout the world had diabetes

There are 3 Types of Diabetes:

  1. Type 1 Diabetes – the body does not produce insulin. Approximately 10% of all diabetes cases are type 1.
  • Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas that allows your body to use sugar (glucose) from carbohydrates in the food that you eat for energy or to store glucose for future use.
  • Insulin helps keeps your blood sugar level from getting too high (hyperglycemia) or too low (hypoglycemia)
    • Type 1 Diabetes– occurs when the pancreas stops producing insulin.
    • It usually starts in young people under the age of 30, including very young children and infants, and the onset is sudden and dramatic.
    • People who have Type 1 Diabetes must inject insulin to survive.
    • Insulin dosages are carefully balanced with food intake and exercise programmes.
  1. Type 2 Diabetes – the body does not produce enough insulin for proper function.
    • Type 2 Diabetes – is caused when the insulin, which the pancreas produces, is either not enough or does not work properly.
    • Approximately 85 – 90% of all people with diabetes are Type 2, and many people who have this condition are undiagnosed.
    • Most Type 2’s are over 40. They are usually overweight and do not exercise.
    • Type 2 Diabetes may be treated successfully without medication. Often loss of weight alone will reduce glucose levels.
    • Eating patterns and exercise play important roles in management.
    • Tablets may be prescribed to help improve control; however, many Type 2’s will eventually use insulin.
    • Although Type 2 is, in itself, not life threatening, in many ways it is more dangerous than Type 1, as its onset is gradual and hard to detect.
    • High blood glucose levels over a long period of time can cause serious damage to the delicate parts of the body and lead to blindness, heart attack\stroke, kidney failure, impotence and amputation.
  1. Gestational Diabetes – this type affects females during pregnancy.
  • Gestational Diabetes is a temporary condition that occurs during pregnancy.
  • Both mother and child have an increased risk of developing diabetes in the future.

Diabetes Symptoms

  • It is possible to have diabetes with only very mild symptoms or without developing any symptoms at all.
  • Such cases can leave some people with diabetes unaware of the condition and undiagnosed. This happens in around half of people with Type 2 Diabetes.
  • A condition known as Prediabetes that often leads to Type 2 Diabetes also produces no symptoms.
  • Type 2 Diabetes and its symptoms develop slowly.
  • Type 1 Diabetes can go unnoticed but is less likely to do so.

The Most Common Diabetes Symptoms Include:

  • frequent urination
  • intense thirst and hunger
  • weight gain
  • unusual weight loss
  • fatigue
  • cuts and bruises that do not heal
  • male sexual dysfunction
  • numbness and tingling in hands and feet
  • irritability
  • blurred vision
  • slow-healing sores
  • frequent infections, such as gums or skin infections and vaginal infections

Is Diabetes Serious?

  • There is no such thing as ‘mild’ diabetes.
  • Diabetes is always serious.
  • If it is left untreated or is not well managed, the high levels of blood glucose associated with diabetes can slowly damage both the fine nerves and the small and large blood vessels in the body, resulting in a variety of complications.
  • These include heart disease, blindness, amputation, kidney disease and erectile dysfunction or impotence.
  • The good news is that with careful management, these complications can be delayed and even prevented, but early diagnosis is very important.
  • You need to know what the symptoms of diabetes are and whether you are at risk.

Diagnosing Diabetes

  • Accurate tests are available to doctors such as Doctors- on- Call to definitively confirm a diagnosis of diabetes
  • Before tests are conducted, a diagnosis may be suspected when patients report certain symptoms. (As outlined above)
  • Doctors will evaluate these symptoms by asking questions about the patient’s medical history
  • Doctors may also carry out a physical examination, including checks for complications that could have already developed – for example examining the feet for changes in sensation
  • Testing can be part of routine screening for people at risk of the disease, who may show up as having Prediabetes:
    • For example anyone overweight at the age of 45 years and over, alongside anyone under the age of 45 with one or more of the following risk factors:
      • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
      • High cholesterol
      • History of diabetes in the family
      • History of gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) or delivering a baby over 9 lbs.

Blood Tests for Diabetes Diagnosis

One of three blood tests can be used to confirm a diagnosis of diabetes:

  1. Fasting plasma glucose (FPG) levels – a blood test after 8 hours of no eating
  2. Glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c) – to measure a marker of the average blood glucose level over the past 2-3 months
  3. Oral glucose tolerance testing (OGTT) – a test used less frequently that measures levels before and 2 hours after consuming a sweet drink (concentrated glucose solution)
  • Glycosylated haemoglobin (HbA1c) is often abbreviated to A1C & is the preferred
    blood test
     for diagnosis.  It is also used in the monitoring of diabetes management
  • To make an initial diagnosis, an A1C reading must be 5% or higher
  • An A1C result between 7% and 6.4% indicates Prediabetes and a risk of Type 2

Treatment of Diabetes

  • Depending on the type of diabetes, blood sugar monitoring, insulin and oral medications may play a role in treatment
  • Eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight and participating in regular activity also are important factors in managing diabetes.

Treatments for all types of diabetes:

  • An important part of managing diabetes — as well as your overall health — is maintaining a healthy weight through a healthy diet and exercise plan:
  • Healthy eating. Contrary to popular perception, there’s no specific diabetes diet.
  • Physical activity. Everyone needs regular aerobic exercise, and people who have diabetes are no exception.
    • Exercise lowers blood sugar level by moving sugar into the cells, where it’s used for energy.
    • Exercise also increases sensitivity to insulin, which means your body needs less insulin to transport sugar to your cells.
    • Get your doctor’s OK to exercise. Then choose activities you enjoy, such as walking, swimming or biking. What’s most important is making physical activity part of your daily routine.

Treatments for Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes

  • Treatment for Type 1 Diabetes involves insulin injections or the use of an insulin pump, frequent blood sugar checks, and carbohydrate counting.
  • Treatment of Type 2 Diabetes primarily involves lifestyle changes, monitoring of your blood sugar, along with diabetes medications, insulin or both.

Monitoring blood sugar

  • Depending on the treatment plan, people may check and record their blood sugar as many as four times a day or more often if they’re taking insulin
  • Careful monitoring is the only way to make sure that the blood sugar level remains within the correct target range
  • People with Type 2 Diabetes who aren’t taking insulin generally check their blood sugar much less frequently

Consulting Your Doctor

  • If you or your family are experiencing Diabetes Symptoms or have any of the Risk Factors it is important to consult with a doctor such as Doctors on Call
  • Doctors- on- Callyour house-call doctor service, are able to advise & assist you with the correct diagnostic & treatment protocols to follow in order to successfully treat & manage your Diabetes
  • It is a good idea to have a ‘house call doctor’ like Doctors-on-Call number at hand, especially if you or anyone in your family are suffering from some of the more severe Diabetes symptoms & risk factors discussed above
  • Timeous and effective diagnoses and treatment of Diabetes symptoms can have major positive lifestyle changing effects and can also lower the likelihood of serious complications