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Diabetes: Information and Explanation

Diabetes or Diabetes Mellitus is a group of metabolic diseases where the amount of glucose (blood sugar) in your blood is too high either due to inadequate insulin production, or body cells that do not properly respond to insulin, or both. 

People with high glucose level usually experience polyuria or frequent urination, polydipsia or increased thirst, and polyphagia or increased hunger. There are three different types of diabetes, which are: Type 1 Diabetes, Type 2 Diabetes, Gestational Diabetes.

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 Diabetes causes your blood glucose level to become higher than normal. Also referred to as Juvenile Diabetes, Type 1 Diabetes occurs when your pancreas lost its ability to make insulin due to your own immune system attacking and destroying the cells in it. Once the cells in your pancreas are destroyed, it can never make the hormone insulin again.

About 10% of diabetes cases are Type 1 Diabetes. Having this type of diabetes requires you to take insulin injections for the rest of your life and you will need to have a special diet and regular blood tests to ensure that your body has the right amount of blood glucose level. 

Symptoms:

  • Frequent urination
  • Dry mouth or extreme thirst
  • Possibly increased hunger
  • Weight loss

Type 2 Diabetes

In Type 2 Diabetes or also known as Non-insulin Dependent Diabetes, your pancreas still has the ability to produce insulin, but your body is no longer responding to it normally (insulin resistance). This causes your blood glucose level to rise, making your pancreas to produce even more insulin. When this happen, your pancreas will eventually wear out from producing extra insulin, which overtime, will lose its capability to produce enough insulin to keep your body's normal blood glucose level.

There is about 90% of diabetes cases which are Type 2 Diabetes worldwide. And although this type of diabetes may be controlled by exercising, losing weight, having a healthy diet, and monitoring blood glucose level, it's still a progressive disease that may gradually gets worse and you may still need to take tablet form insulin.

Being overweight or obese makes you more likely to develop Type 2 Diabetes as body fats, particularly belly fats, release chemicals that may destabilize your body's metabolic and cardiovascular systems. 

Experts say that aging also puts you at risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes because you may tend to gain more weight and be less physically active as you age. It also runs in the family so having a relative with Type 2 Diabetes gives higher risk of developing the disease.

Symptoms:

  • Frequent urination
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased hunger
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred Vision
  • Spots of darkened skin
  • Frequent infections
  • Slow healing of wounds/sores

Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that affects some women during pregnancy. It's considered as one of the most common health problems among pregnant women as 2 out of 10 mothers may develop this health condition.

Because there's an increased insulin demand during pregnancy, your pancreas may not be able to keep up with the demand, making your blood glucose level to rise too high.

Good thing is, women with gestational diabetes don't remain diabetic after the baby is born. However, when you've had this type of diabetes, you may still have it again in your future pregnancy.

Symptoms:

  • Frequent urination
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased hunger
  • Blurred vision

Because pregnancy causes frequent urination and increased hunger, experiencing symptoms of gestational diabetes doesn't always mean that you have the disease; speak with your doctor and yourself tested.

How Diabetes is Diagnosed

If you have been experiencing common symptoms of diabetes such as frequent urination, extreme thirst, and increased hunger, your physician may run a diabetes test to determine your condition. Such tests may be:

  • Fasting Plasma Glucose Test
  • Blood Glucose Test
  • Oral Glucose Tolerance Test
  • Hemoglobin A1c Test
  • Other Diabetes Tests (Dilated Eye Exam, Foot Exam, etc)

Treatment for Diabetes

Treatment for diabetes varies for every individual, depending on the type of diabetes that you have. Some of the most common treatments include: 

  • Medications that include glucose-lowering pills, insulin (injection or tablet form).
  • Regular exercise to control blood sugar level, weight, and high blood pressure.
  • Meal planning controlling the amount of fat, protein, and carbohydrate intake.
  • Self-testing of blood glucose level
  • Foot care as your diabetes decreases your body's ability to fight infection.
  • Alternative medicine to control blood sugar level.

Diabetes Prevention

Prevention is always better than cure. If you know that you have higher risk of developing diabetes (i.e. with family history of the disease; overweight), prevention such as the following should be one of your priorities:

  • Get more physically active to lose weight, to lower blood sugar, and to boost your sensitivity to insulin.
  • Eat food rich in fiber 
  • Go for whole grains
  • Maintain proper weight
  • Have a healthy-eating plan (avoid fad diets)

When to Seek Medical Help

Symptoms of extremely low blood sugar level (hypoglycemic coma or severe insulin reaction) and symptoms of ketoacidosis should be taken more seriously and it's recommended to call your local emergency number if any of the following occurs:

Extremely Low Blood Sugar Level Symptoms:

  • Confusion
  • Unconsciousness or convulsion
  • Double vision
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Drowsiness
  • Weakness
  • Lack of coordination

Ketoacidosis Symptoms:

  • Deep and rapid breathing
  • Abdominal pain
  • Unconsciousness
  • Nausea
  • Extreme thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Sweet-smelling breath

Summary

Any type of diabetes that hasn't been treated may lead to other serious medical conditions including heart attack and stroke. That's why it's extremely important to be aware of your symptoms, your risk factors, and if possible, take the necessary steps to prevent it.