What is Diabetes and How Do You Prevent or Treat It?

What is Diabetes and How Do You Prevent or Treat It?

Diabetes is a medical condition that can produce unpleasant effects on different parts of your body. Its incidence has, sadly, risen over the years as more and more people seem to adopt unhealthy diet and lifestyle. This has, of course, led to more complaints about the conditions that are associated to it. Adequate knowledge of this disorder can go a long way in guarding against it. But if you already have it, such will be useful in knowing the right way to dealing with the problem. We provide here comprehensive information to help.

What is Diabetes?


Diabetes is a term that is collectively used to describe metabolic disorders characterized by elevated blood glucose. A person with the condition is not able to properly process sugars in the body. Glucose from the food you consume is normally used for production of energy. But in the case of diabetes, this doesn't enter into body cells to be used for energy. This causes sugars to build up in the blood.

The hormone insulin is crucial to the ability of your body to use glucose for energy. Normally, the substance is secreted by the pancreas in sufficient amount when you eat. This enables glucose in the blood to enter into cells. This way, insulin helps to ensure that sugars do not build up in your blood.

Diabetes results when there is insufficient amount of insulin in the body. It may well be brought about by reduction in the sensitivity of your body to the hormone. So, it becomes difficult or impossible for blood sugars to be moved into cells for use as energy and for growth.

This essentially means that, while a high amount of sugars may be available in your body, they may not be available to your body cells. This forces the body to seek for optional energy sources in tissues, muscles and organs. It is because the condition involves inability of the body to utilize food consumed for energy and growth that it is called a metabolic disorder. As a result, an affected person experiences a variety of symptoms and possible health complications.

The disorder is also known as diabetes mellitus. This has both Greek and Latin origins. It refers to release of "sweet water" from the genitals.

Incidence of Diabetes

This metabolic disorder is becoming more and more widespread. The diet and lifestyle habits of many people these days are to blame. The 2014 National Diabetes Report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that more than 29 million Americans have the condition. That figure crossed the 30 million mark in 2015.

Perhaps, more frightening is the estimate that the number of people affected by diabetes in the U.S. will exceed 53 million by 2025. But many of those affected do not know they have the issue. More than a quarter of those with the condition have no idea of its presence, based on available estimates.

Some people thought, and probably still think, that diabetes is a problem of the elderly. That's not true. Medical experts have known for some time that younger people can have the problem. In fact, its occurrence among such has been rising in recent years. There were 208,000 persons younger than 20 years who had the disorder in 2012, according to the American Diabetes Association.

Globally, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that nine percent of adults suffer from diabetes.

Types and Causes Of Diabetes

There are three main types of this metabolic disorder, namely: type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes.

Type 1 Diabetes

Also known as early-onset or juvenile diabetes, Type 1 diabetes usually develops during the younger years of a patient. But it can be present at any age. It results from the ability of the patient's body to produce sufficient insulin. This is usually caused by an immune system attacking cells responsible for making insulin in the pancreas. It is for this reason that it is described as an autoimmune disorder.

Type 1 is not the most common form of diabetes. But there has also been a rise in its incidence in recent years. Prevalence among persons younger than 20 years rose by 23 percent between 2001 and 2009, according to the CDC.

Type 2 Diabetes

Accounting for roughly 90 percent of cases, type 2 diabetes is the most common form of this disorder. This is the type that makes people think diabetes is a problem for older individuals. Estimate suggests that it affects 95 percent of older people with diabetes.

This form used to be known as adult-onset diabetes. It typically occurs in middle-aged individuals and those who are older. But this does not mean that younger individuals, including children, cannot have it.

Type 2 diabetes is a double whammy of sort. It is the result of insufficient production of insulin in the body. It can also occur when you have adequate amount of the hormone. In the latter case, body cells become less sensitive to the substance, making it difficult to move blood sugars into them. This is what is called insulin resistance. The pancreas attempts to intensify insulin production, but this will not be able to keep up with rising blood sugar levels.

The disorder worsens with the passing of the years. Action needs to be taken promptly to guard against some of its more awful consequences.

Gestational diabetes

This type of diabetes affects women. It occurs as a result of pregnancy. Blood glucose surges in some pregnant women, but their bodies are not able to produce adequate insulin to control this. This is what brings about gestational diabetes.

The condition typically vanishes after delivery. But a woman who has had it is believed to be at greater risk of having type 2 diabetes. The National Institutes of Health reported that between 2 and 10 percent of pregnant women have the disorder. It predisposes the baby in the womb to certain risks, in addition to those facing the mother.

Other types of diabetes

There are still other forms of diabetes a person may have but that rarely occur. These include cystic fibriosis-related diabetes and the hereditary monogenic diabetes. They typically occur from certain medical conditions, including pancreas disorders. Medications and surgeries are also believed to be capable of causing them.

These other forms of diabetes account for no more than 5 percent of all cases of the metabolic disorder. Estimate shows that they may count for as low as 1 percent of diabetes cases.


This is not another type of diabetes. Prediabetes is a condition that precedes type 2 diabetes. An individual with it will have blood sugar levels that are higher than normal. Cells in the body gradually become resistant to insulin. Someone with prediabetes may experience some of the unpleasant health issues associated with diabetes.

The U.S. CDC estimated that more than one-third of adults in the United States have prediabetes. Between 15 and 30 percent of these were expected to have type 2 diabetes within five years.

Risk Factors for Diabetes

Diabetes is a condition that one cannot say is caused by just one factor. It is rather complicated trying to explain what could cause it to develop. However, certain factors are well known to increase the risk of having it. They include:

Overweight and obesity – These are major contributors to the rising cases of type 2 diabetes. The risk is particular greater when fat buildup occurs in the abdominal region, in which case it is often described as visceral fat or central obesity. Overweight or obesity causes your body to produce chemicals that can throw your metabolic system out of balance. These, of course, make it difficult to move sugars from the blood into cells. There is greater insulin resistance by the cells.

Aging – You are more likely to have this medical condition as you get older. The risk is thought to be particularly higher after reaching the age of 45. It is not entirely clear why this is the case.

Family history – If there is someone in your family that has had diabetes, you need to be on your guard as you may likely be predisposed to it.

Unhealthy eating habits and lifestyle – There are many people these days that pay little attention to the foods they consume. If you are one of such, you need to watch it. Junk foods can elevate your blood sugar levels. A sedentary lifestyle further amplifies how likely you are to have diabetes.

Besides the foregoing, other risk factors that are associated with the condition include:

• Being an American Indian, African-American, Asian-American, South Asian, Latino, or Pacific Islander
• Having low testosterone levels
• Having polycystic ovarian syndrome
• Maintaining a diet high in fat and cholesterol before becoming pregnant

In addition to diseases of the pancreas, high blood pressure is among conditions that may cause you to develop diabetes.

Symptoms of diabetes

The stage of the disorder at a particular time determines what signs you are going to notice. Persons who are not observant may not consider some of these symptoms as possibly pointing to diabetes. The ones you are likely to notice earlier include:

Frequent urination – Excess amount of glucose in your blood causes you to urinate frequently. Your kidneys are not able to filter sugars back to your blood when there are insulin issues. They draw in water for diluting the sugars, with this causing your bladder to fill up. Of course, you then experience the urge to urinate more often.

Increased urge for food – Someone who has diabetes, or prediabetes, may experience hard to control hunger. Your body will try frantically to find other sources when sugars are not available to your cells for energy. This causes feeling of hunger as your body demands more food to produce energy.

Increased thirst – Just as you experience greater hunger, you will also feel the need to take water more frequently. Your body demands this to make up for fluid lost through more frequent urination.

Weight loss – These days, this is supposed to be a good thing to many people, but it is not here. When cells are not getting needed energy from your food, your body may resort to breaking down not only fat, but also muscles to make energy. This causes you to lose weight. This effect is more noticeable in persons with type 1 diabetes since the condition occurs rather suddenly.

Fatigue – It is very easy to understand why you may constantly feel weak when you have high blood sugar levels. You have feeling of tiredness because energy is not available to your cells.

Blurry vision – The presence of diabetes may also be detected through changes in the ability of your eyes to achieve focus. This is thought to result from loss of tissue. It could possibly lead to total blindness if not treated promptly.

Other symptoms of early stage diabetes include irritability, dry mouth, and itchy skin.

The symptoms that may be noticed when the disorder has reached an advanced stage include:

Yeast and skin infections – Elevated blood sugars can make it harder for your body to fight infections. You may, therefore, have yeast or skin infections. If you already have these or other infections, recovery time gets longer. There may be dark patches on your skin. Cuts and sores take longer time to heal.

Numbness or tingling in the extremities – This is likely to result from the damage that can potentially result from diabetes. It could destroy both nerves and the blood vessels that supply blood. This is called neuropathy. It comes with numbness or tingling sensation, especially in your hands and legs.

Foot pain is another possible indication of this condition having been present for a long. Sexual dysfunction and gum disease may also serve as pointers.

You should endeavor to seek your doctor's opinion if you observe two or more of these symptoms at the same time. Doing so will help a great deal in protecting yourself against dire complications.

However, some people with diabetes may not experience symptoms that may be thought enough to warrant medical advice. These may even not show any symptoms at all. Research shows that roughly 50 percent of those with type 2 diabetes do not know and so remain undiagnosed.

How is the diagnosis of Diabetes done?

There are three major tests that are done to determine if you have diabetes or prediabetes. They are:

Hemoglobin A1C test – The aim of this is to ascertain the average amount of sugars in your blood in the past two or three months. A result of less than 5.7 percent indicates everything is normal. You have prediabetes if this is higher – up to 5.99 percent. There is diabetes if the result shows levels at 6.5 percent, or higher. This screening is also known as glycosylated hemoglobin test.

Fasting plasma glucose (FPG) test – This assesses the amount of sugar in your plasma. Unlike the A1C test, you need to abstain from food for eight hours before taking the FPG test. A count less than 100 mg/dl is normal. One between 100 and 125.99 mg/dl suggests prediabetes, while anything higher points to diabetes. A person with impaired fasting glucose (IPG) returns an irregular reading.

Oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) – This is done to examine how your body reacts to glucose. It involves you taking a drink of glucose. But before this, the professional in charge draws your blood. This is repeated about two hours after you take the drink. The blood samples will then be assessed.

A reading lower than 140 mg/dl shows you do not have diabetes. You have prediabetes if it falls between 140 and 199.9 mg/dl. Diabetes is present if the results show 200 mg/dl or higher. If the reading is abnormal, there is impaired glucose tolerance.

How do you treat diabetes?

This medical condition typically lasts a lifetime, especially in the case of type 1. Experts say there is no known cure for diabetes. But your doctor can provide suggestions on what you can do to treat or control it. The best approach usually depends on the particular type you have.


Type 1 diabetes patients need to regularly take insulin injections. These deliver the hormone into the fatty tissue beneath your skin, thereby enhancing its efficacy. Injections involve the use of any of the following:

• Syringe
• Insulin pen, featuring a pre-filled cartridge and a needle
• Insulin pump
• Jet injector

In the case of type 2 diabetes, there may also be need to take insulin. But this is less likely to be so among the patients, compared to those with type 1.

In addition to insulin therapy, the following are some other options available for treating diabetes, type 2 in particular:


We have already hinted at how the food you eat can be a factor in the likelihood of you having diabetes. You need to run away from junk foods entirely. It is advisable to avoid or reduce your consumption of the following, among others:

• Processed meat
• Salty foods
• Sugary drinks
• Fried foods
• Baked food products
• Margarine
• High-fat dairy products
• Foods in saturated fats and/or trans fats

These may suggest that fat-rich food should be avoided. That's actually not the point. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats as well as omega-3 fatty acids are very beneficial to your health. They can help to protect your heart. Sources include:

• Avocados
• Olive oil
• Salmon
• Tuna
• Almonds
• Walnuts
• Cod
• Halibut

Your diet also needs to feature high amounts of fruits and vegetables. These greatly enhance your health and protect you from free radical damage. Whole grains and legumes are also helpful.

It helps to pay attention to portion sizes. Do not eat too much. Endeavor to read food labels to the letter. You will also benefit from eating according to a defined schedule.


You can hardly mention a healthy diet without mentioning regular exercise. Inactivity is a major factor in the occurrence of type 2 diabetes. So, you need to exercise daily - half an hour may suffice. Avoid sitting for too long in the same place.

By working out, you get help in controlling the amount of sugar in your blood. Exercise can also improve the sensitivity of your cells to insulin. When combined with a good diet, it helps to fight overweight and obesity that contribute to diabetes.


Diet, exercise and weight management are the preferred options for managing diabetes, apart from insulin. Your doctor may suggest certain drugs if these failed to work as expected. Examples include:

Metformin – This is a very popular medication for type 2 diabetes, thanks to its relative affordability. It improves your body's sensitivity to insulin, thus helping to reduce blood glucose.

Sodium-glucose contransporter-2 inhibitors – These appear to deal mainly with frequent urination and thirst resulting from diabetes. They keep your kidneys from reabsorbing sugar and passing it out in urine.

Meglitinides – These rapid-action substances influence the pancreas to produce more insulin. They are more suited to cases that are not results of insensitivity to the hormone.

It is important to note that medications that are used for treatment do come with side effects. Your doctor may have to do some trials to determine the best one or combination.

Researchers at Mayo Clinic have also found that gastric bypass surgery may be helpful for people with type 2 diabetes. They suggested that timely intervention in obese diabetics can lead to longer lasting improvement.

Possible complications Of Diabetes

It is very crucial to seek medical help as soon as you suspect diabetes. When left untreated for long, the condition can lead to some unpleasant effects. They include:

Eye problems – Diabetes may do damage to your retina and possibly other parts of the eye. This causes your vision to worsen. It may lead to glaucoma and cataracts.

Gastroparesis – The muscles of your gastrointestinal may lose the efficiency.

HHNS – Fully known as hyperosmolar hyperglycemic nonketotic syndrome, this is a serious medical condition. It is characterized by elevated blood sugar levels and absence of ketones in your blood or urine.

Foot issues – It is possible for diabetes to hinder the flow of blood to your feet. This makes it hard for infections and cuts to heal. It may also give rise to gangrene, which can ultimately result in the loss of your limbs through amputation.

Cardiovascular problems – The disorder can impact adversely on your cardiovascular system. Reduction in the supply of blood to heart muscle can lead to ischemic heart disease. Peripheral arterial disease (PAD), which may make movement difficult or uncomfortable, is linked to diabetes. High blood pressure that is linked to it can lead to stroke or heart attack.

Complications from diabetes also include hearing loss, gum disease, ketoacidosis, anxiety and depression. The condition can contribute to kidney damage and failure.

As for gestational diabetes, women affected may experience difficult labor and delivery. The condition may cause their babies to be prone to obesity or even have some organs damaged. Such baby is also at increased risk of having diabetes later in life.

A careful look at some of these complications hints at possible fatality, albeit indirectly. You will therefore be doing yourself a lot of good by seeking help early.

Is Diabetes preventable?

Sadly, diabetes is not completely within your control. You practically have no control over risk factors such as your age, genetics and race. You can only reduce your risk of having it, but not completely.

It is only possible to deal with risk factors such as overweight and obesity, unhealthy foods and sedentary lifestyle. The ideas we suggested for treatment will be helpful in doing this.

While it is a scary condition, it is possible to live a long, active life with diabetes. Patients only need to ensure they keep close tab on their blood glucose levels and strictly observe treatment guidelines. Lifestyle changes will also be crucial. You will need to be close to your doctor for necessary guidance on how to prevent serious health problems from the disorder.

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Diabetes: Symptoms, Causes and Treatments (https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/info/diabetes)

Type 2 Diabetes: Symptoms, Treatment, Diet, and More (http://www.healthline.com/health/type-2-diabetes)

Diabetes Mellitus: Types, Symptoms, Causes, Treatments (http://www.webmd.com/diabetes/guide/types-of-diabetes-mellitus#1)

What is Diabetes? | NIDDK (https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/what-is-diabetes)



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