Understanding Diabetesęź· Everything You Need to Know

Diabetes mellitus is a metabolic condition that causes a high level of sugar in the blood. When a person suffers from diabetes, the body is unable to produce enough insulin or is unable to effectively use the hormone. The consequences can be devastating because insulin is responsible for moving the blood’s sugar content into the cells where it can either be used as energy or stored. 

When high blood sugar caused by diabetes is left untreated, it can lead to damaged nerves, kidneys, eyes, and various other organs.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are the three main types of diabetes? 

There are three main types of diabetes. These are:

  • Type 1 diabetes. This is an auto-immune condition where the immune system attacks the pancreatic cells and destroys them. The pancreas is responsible for producing insulin. Even now, there is no clear explanation as to why the attack happens. About one in every ten diabetic people will suffer from this particular type of diabetes.
  • Type 2 diabetes. This means that the body has become insulin resistant. As a result, blood sugar increases.
  • Prediabetes. This means that the level of sugar in the blood is higher than what is considered normal and acceptable, however, it still isn’t high enough to qualify it as type 2 diabetes.
  • Gestational diabetes. This happens in women who develop higher than normal blood sugar while pregnant. It is generally caused by placental hormones that block insulin. 

There are also people who suffer from a condition known as diabetes insipidus. While diabetes mellitus and diabetes insipidus sound like they are two forms of the same condition, they are not related at all. Diabetes insipidus is a rare condition in which the kidneys are overly active in removing body fluids.

Different types of diabetes come with their own unique symptoms. They have different causes too and require different treatments.

What are the most common symptoms of diabetes? 

The symptoms experienced by diabetic people are caused by the increased levels of sugar in their blood.

General symptoms

Among the most common general symptoms of diabetes are: 

  • Increased thirst
  • Increased hunger
  • Frequent urination
  • Weight loss
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Blurry vision
  • Sores that do not heal

Diabetes symptoms in men

Aside from the general symptoms most commonly observed in diabetic patients, men who suffer from the condition will likely suffer from decreased muscle strength, decreased libido as well as ED or erectile dysfunction.

Diabetes symptoms in women

Women suffering from diabetes will likely exhibit additional symptoms such as dry, itchy skin, yeast infections, and UTI or urinary tract infection.

Symptoms of type 1 diabetes

If you suffer from type 1 diabetes, chances are you may be suffering from the following symptoms:

  • Increased thirst
  • Extreme hunger
  • Frequent urination
  • Tiredness
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Blurry vision

In some people, the condition can also cause mood changes.

Symptoms of type 2 diabetes

If you have type 2 diabetes, among the most common symptoms you will experience are:

  • Increased thirst
  • Increased hunger
  • Tiredness
  • Blurry vision
  • Sores that take ages to heal
  • Increased urination

Type 2 diabetes can lead to recurring infections. This is mainly due to the increased blood sugar levels which prevent the body from healing properly.

Symptoms of gestational diabetes

Women suffering from gestational diabetes will usually not exhibit any symptoms. Often, the condition is detected when they go through a routine glucose test or an oral blood sugar tolerance test performed when the woman is within her 24th- 28th week of gestation.

There are some rare instances, however, when a woman who has developed gestational diabetes may experience such symptoms as increased urination or thirst. 

It is important to note that in most cases, diabetes symptoms may be so mild that spotting them can be tricky. Early diagnosis is crucial in treating and managing the disease which is why regular trips to your doctor are essential. 

What are the causes of diabetes? 

Different causes are often associated with different types of diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes

Doctors are still unable to determine the exact cause of this type of diabetes. This is where the immune system attacks the beta cells located in the pancreas by mistake and in the process, destroys them. These beta cells are known for producing insulin.

For some people, their genes may prominently figure as a cause. There are also instances when the condition may be triggered by a virus. 

Type 2 diabetes

People suffering from type 2 diabetes may have developed the condition due to a combination of lifestyle and genetic factors. Obesity can also be a risk factor. When one has extra weight in the body, especially along the belly, the cells will become more resistant to insulin thus, making it harder to control the glucose levels in the process. 

This condition happens to run in families. Since family members share genes, then they are more susceptible to be overweight and develop type 2 diabetes. 

Gestational diabetes

The condition is a result of the hormonal changes in a woman’s body due to pregnancy. During this period, the placenta produces hormones that cause the woman’s cells to become resistant to insulin. As a result, the woman experiences a spike in glucose levels. 

Overweight women who get pregnant or those that gain considerable weight while pregnant are more prone to develop this type of diabetes.

When it comes to diabetes, environmental factors and one’s genes will play a crucial role in triggering the condition. 

Diabetes risk factors 

When it comes to the possibility of developing diabetes, there are a number of risk factors involved.

Type 1 diabetes

The condition is generally more prevalent among children and teenagers. If you have a family member who suffers from the same condition then it increases your risk of developing it too. In addition, if you carry genes that are known to be associated with the disease, then chances are you will likely suffer from type 1 diabetes as well. 

Type 2 diabetes

You’re more likely to develop type 2 diabetes if: 

  • You’re 45 or over 45
  • You’re overweight
  • You’re not physically active
  • You have a family member who suffers from the same condition
  • You’re prediabetic
  • You’ve experienced gestational diabetes
  • Your blood sugar, triglycerides or cholesterol levels are high
  • You have Hispanic, African American, Latino American, Pacific Islander, Alaska Native, Asian American or American Indian ancestry

Gestational diabetes

The possibility of you developing gestational diabetes is high if:

  • You’re over 25 years old
  • You’re overweight
  • You’ve developed the condition in the past
  • You’ve experienced giving birth to a baby who is more than 9 pounds
  • You have PCOS or polycystic ovarian syndrome
  • You have family members who suffer from type 2 diabetes 

Your genes, pre-existing medical conditions as well as your environment can all play a significant role in determining whether or not you will develop diabetes. Understanding these risks and determining which ones you can control may help improve your chances of keeping it at bay.

What are the potential complications of diabetes? 

High glucose levels can affect the tissues and organs in the body. The higher your glucose levels are and the longer it is left unchecked, the more likely you’re going to suffer from complications.

Among the most common diabetes complications are:

  • Neuropathy
  • Heart attack, heart disease and stroke
  • Nephropathy
  • Vision loss and retinopathy
  • Skin conditions such as fungal and bacterial infections
  • Foot damage including sores and infections that don’t heal
  • Hearing loss
  • Dementia
  • Depression 

Gestational diabetes

If left uncontrolled, gestational diabetes has the potential to cause problems that will not only affect the mother but also the baby. Among the most common complications that may affect the baby are: 

  • Birth weight that is significantly higher than normal
  • Premature birth
  • Jaundice
  • Low glucose levels
  • Stillbirth 

It is possible for the mother to also experience complications as well. This includes preeclampsia or high blood pressure and even type 2 diabetes. In some cases, the mom will require a C-section delivery.

On top of that, the chances of the mother developing gestational diabetes in any future pregnancies will significantly increase as well.

If untreated, diabetes can lead to grave medical complications. Through proper medication and the necessary tweaks in your lifestyle, however, it is highly manageable. Talking to your doctor about what the best options are for you is crucial. 

What are the different treatments for diabetes? 

There are certain medications used by medical experts in treating and managing diabetes. Some of these medications are orally taken. Some are injected.

Type 1 diabetes

For this type of diabetes mellitus, insulin is the foremost treatment choice. With this, the hormone, which the body is unable to produce, will be successfully replaced. 

There are different types of insulin that are used for this purpose. The difference lies in how quickly they take effect and how long such effects last. 

  • Short-acting insulin. The effects will start working within 30 minutes and should start to wear off within 6-8 hours.
  • Rapid-acting insulin. This type of insulin often starts working within 15 minutes with the effects starting to wear within 3-4 hours.
  • Long-acting insulin. The effects usually start working a few hours after it has been injected. Normally, the benefits last for 24 hours or even longer.
  • Intermediate-acting insulin. It can take between 1 and 2 hours to start feeling the effects of this type of insulin. Generally, the effects will last around 12-18 hours. 

Type 2 diabetes

Exercise and diet can often make a difference to some people suffering from this condition. However, if changes to your lifestyle are not enough to keep your glucose levels down, taking medications will be the next course of action.

These drugs can help keep the blood sugar levels down in several ways. In most cases, there may be a need to take more than one of these medications. Taking insulin is also common among people suffering from type 2 diabetes as part of managing the condition. 

Gestational diabetes

Monitoring your glucose levels several times daily is essential during pregnancy. If the numbers are high, regular exercise as well as introducing some dietary changes may be able to bring the glucose levels down.  

Data from the Mayo Clinic reveals that 1-2 out of every 10 women who have developed gestational diabetes will likely need insulin to keep their glucose levels under control. Insulin is safe for pregnant women. 

When it comes to determining the best treatment for diabetes, the drug or drugs that our doctor will recommend will be based heavily on what type of diabetic you are along with its cause.   

How is diabetes diagnosed? 

Anybody who seems to be exhibiting symptoms associated with diabetes or has a family with a history of the disease needs to get tested. For pregnant women, it is common to undergo a routine test for gestational diabetes, especially during the second or third trimester. 

There are blood tests that are used by doctors to determine whether a patient has diabetes or prediabetes. 

  • FPG or fasting plasma glucose test. This test is designed to measure your glucose level after an 8-hour fast.
  • The A1C test. This test gives a view of your glucose levels over a -month period. 

In diagnosing gestational diabetes, your doctor will have your glucose levels checked between your 24th and 28th week of pregnancy. 

  • When undergoing the test, you will be advised to drink a sugary liquid. After an hour, your glucose levels will then be checked.
  • If you’re undergoing the 3-hour blood sugar tolerance test, the glucose levels will be checked after having fasted overnight and drinking a sweetened liquid.

When it comes to diabetes, early diagnosis is crucial so you can get treated sooner.

How to prevent diabetes? 

Considering how type 1 diabetes is caused by issues concerning the immune system, there is really no way to prevent it from developing. When it comes to type 2 diabetes, your age and your genes may be the cause which too, is out of your control. 

However, many of the risk factors associated with the disease can be controlled. There are strategies you can employ which aim to prevent diabetes. For instance, introducing simple tweaks and adjustments to your fitness routine and your diet can make a whole lot of difference. 

If you have received a prediabetes diagnosis, there are certain things you can do to delay if not totally prevent type 2 diabetes.

  • Engage in aerobic exercise for at least 150 minutes a week This includes cycling or walking.
  • Consume more vegetables, whole grains and fruits.
  • Avoid consumption of trans and saturated fats. Do the same for refined carbohydrates.
  • Go for smaller portioned meals.
  • If you’re obese or overweight, work on losing 7% of your total body weight.

Want to Know More About Diabetes and Diabetes Treatment Options?

When managing diabetes, eating the right food is essential. There have been cases where introducing changes to the daily diet can keep the disease under control. 

Type 1 diabetes

People diagnosed with this type of diabetes will usually find their glucose levels increase or decrease based on the foods they are eating. Sugary and starchy foods can contribute to the blood sugar levels spiking. Fat and protein, however, are known to cause a more gradual increase. 

It wouldn’t be surprising for your medical team to suggest that you minimize your daily carbohydrate intake. Your carb intake will also need to be balanced with your daily insulin dose. 

You will want to work with a dietitian to come up with a meal plan that is ideal for your type of diabetes. When you are getting the right balance of carbs, fat and protein it will be so much easier to keep your blood sugar in check.

Type 2 diabetes

Consuming the right foods will do wonders in keeping your glucose levels down. It will make it easier for you to shed off some excess weight as well.

Type 2 diabetics will also find a lot of benefits in carb counting. You can employ the help of a dietitian so you’ll know what’s the ideal amount of carbohydrates you should consume for each meal.

The key to maintaining a steady glucose level is to eat small meals. Focusing on healthy foods is also essential. You should include such foods as:

  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Lean protein including fish and poultry
  • Whole grains
  • Healthy fats including nuts and olive oil 

Watching what you eat is essential when you are a type 2 diabetic. This is because if you aren’t careful, you might end up consuming foods that can easily undermine all the efforts you have made so far at keeping your glucose levels under control.

Gestational diabetes

Maintaining a properly balanced diet is crucial for every mother during pregnancy. Incorporating the right foods into your diet can also help manage gestational diabetes without any need for medications. 

Pay close attention to your portion sizes. Minimizing your salty and sugar foods intake helps too. While it is true that sugar is needed in feeding the growing baby in your belly, it is important not to eat too much. 

It wouldn’t hurt to come up with an eating plan as well. You can refer to a nutritionist or a dietitian for this purpose. A diet that is rich in macronutrients is also essential.

Women who have never been diagnosed with diabetes may find it surprising how they can develop gestational diabetes after getting pregnant. This is mainly because the placenta produces hormones that block insulin, making the body more resistant to it. As a result, your glucose levels increase.

There are also instances where women who have already been diagnosed with diabetes before getting pregnant carry the condition into their pregnancy. In this case, the condition is referred to as pre-gestational diabetes.

Since the condition is mainly brought about by the pregnancy, it is expected to also clear out the moment the baby is delivered. However, it does increase a woman’s risk of developing diabetes in the future. 

According to the IDF or the International Diabetes Federation, of those women that develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy, about half will go on to develop type 2 diabetes within a 5 to 10-year period from their delivery. 

In addition, there are additional risks associated with developing diabetes during pregnancy. For instance, the newborn may likely experience breathing problems or will be afflicted with jaundice.

If you’re pregnant and diagnosed with gestational or pre-gestational diabetes, it is important to have the necessary monitoring in place to avoid unnecessary complications.

It is possible for kids to develop both type 1 and 2 diabetes. In this case, making sure that the sugar levels in the blood are properly controlled is essential since the disease has a tendency to wreak havoc to the major organs in the body including the kidney and heart. 

Type 1 diabetes

This autoimmune condition often develops during childhood. A very common symptom to watch out for is increased urination. Also, kids who have the disease may also start wetting their beds long after they have already been potty trained. 

Kids with this type of diabetes are also likely to experience extreme hunger, thirst and fatigue. Children that are diagnosed with this condition need to be treated as soon as possible. If left unchecked, it can cause dehydration and high glucose levels which can warrant a medical emergency. 

Type 2 diabetes

Also referred to as juvenile diabetes, the condition is generally rarer among kids. However, the increased number of obese and overweight children in recent years means that it is becoming a common diagnosis in such a very young age group. 

Mayo Clinic revealed that about 4 in every 10 kids that develop type 2 diabetes will not show any symptoms. It is only when the kids undergo a physical exam can the condition get diagnosed. 

Type 2 diabetes among kids when left untreated can lead to complications which they can suffer from for their entire life. This includes kidney disease, blindness and heart disease. Exercise and healthy eating can play a huge role in ensuring that your kid’s glucose levels are under check and preventing such a condition. 

Depending on the type of diabetes you are diagnosed with, the factors that caused it may be beyond your control, as in the case of type 1 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, may be prevented provided that you increase your physical activity, lose your excess weight as well as eat a healthier diet. 

It is always prudent to discuss with your doctor about potential risks and the likelihood of you developing the disease. If you suspect that you are at risk, then getting your glucose levels tested for a proper diagnosis is essential. Following your doctor’s advice and recommendations will keep your blood sugar under control.