Definition, Symptoms & Treatment
Definition, Symptoms & Treatment
If you’re here, you may be wondering if you have diabetes, are at risk of developing the disease, or possibly a loved one has been diagnosed with diabetes?
There are different types of diabetes, and each presents with unique symptoms and causes and requires specialized treatment. In this article, we’ll discuss the three main types of diabetes, who is most at risk, causes, symptoms, and how to prevent it.
Read the full article or Use the quick links to jump ahead.
- What is diabetes?
- The types of diabetes
- What causes diabetes?
- Common symptoms of diabetes
- Who is most at risk?
- Common diabetes complications
- How to treat and prevent diabetes
- Next steps
What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a disease that occurs because blood sugar levels, also known as blood glucose, is too high. Your body is an amazing organ. It extracts blood glucose from the food you eat and uses this energy to fuel your body day in and day out.
This glucose is then absorbed into your cells with the help of insulin, a hormone produced by your pancreas. But in some cases, your body doesn’t utilize insulin correctly or create enough resulting in a build-up of glucose in your blood. Too much glucose in your blood can lead to serious health issues such as damaged nerves, kidneys and organ failure.
Knowing which type of diabetes you have is crucial to managing your health.
The types of diabetes
There are three main types of diabetes.
- Type-1 diabetes: an autoimmune disease.
- Type-2 diabetes: a result of insulin resistance.
- Gestational diabetes: hormones blocking the absorption of insulin during pregnancy.
What causes diabetes?
Doctor’s don’t know exactly what causes type-1 diabetes. What we do know is the immune system attacks and destroys the cells that produce insulin in the pancreas. The most likely cause is your genetic makeup or a virus.
Type-1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and adults. If your doctor determines you have the disease, you’ll need to take insulin daily for the rest of your life.
This is the most common type of diabetes. People with type-2 diabetes don’t make insulin, or if they do, their body doesn’t use it well. Unlike type-1 diabetes, anyone can develop type-2 diabetes at any point in their life, young or old. But it usually presents in middle age and the elderly.
Gestational diabetes develops in certain pregnant women as a result of hormonal changes. Your placenta produces hormones that affect how efficiently your cells absorb insulin leading to a build-up of blood sugar. It usually goes away once the baby is born. But if you’ve developed gestational diabetes, you’re at a far higher risk of developing type-2 diabetes later in life.
Those most at risk are women who are overweight or who gain more than the recommended weight gain during pregnancy.
Common symptoms of diabetes
Rising blood sugar levels contribute to most diabetic symptoms. We’ve listed some of the more common symptoms associated with type-1 and type-2 diabetes.
- Constant hunger
- Sores that take forever to heal
- Blurred vision
- Feeling unable to quench your thirst
- Irritable and tired all the time
- Frequent urination
- Rapid weight loss without changing your diet or lifestyle
- Frequent infections
It’s worth noting that men with diabetes sometimes suffer from erectile dysfunction, a decreased sex drive and poor muscular strength. And women suffer from frequent vaginal infections and skin problems such as eczema.
Common symptoms of gestational diabetes
Unfortunately, the only way to tell if you have gestational diabetes is through a routine blood sugar test between your 24th and 28th week of pregnancy. Generally, there are no obvious signs or symptoms. In severe cases, you may feel incredibly thirsty and need to urinate frequently.
If you currently experience a combination of the symptoms listed above, reach out to Welwitschia and find a doctor here to speak about your concerns.
Who is most at risk?
You’re at risk of developing type-1 diabetes if you have a family history of diabetes, such as a sibling or parent with the condition.
Women over 25 who are overweight, have struggled with polycystic ovarian syndrome, and have given birth to a heavy baby are more likely to develop gestational diabetes. You’re also at risk if you have a family history of type-2 diabetes or experienced gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy.
You’re at risk of developing type-2 diabetes if you’re:
- older than 45
- inactive (little or no exercise)
- prone to high blood pressure and high cholesterol
- and your family has a history of type-2 diabetes.
Basically, your pre-existing conditions, environment, and family history increase your chances of developing diabetes.
Common diabetes complications
Diabetics are prone to all sorts of health-related problems due to the effect of the disease on their overall health. These most commonly include having heart attacks, strokes, fungal and bacterial infections of the skin, dementia, and eye problems such as vision loss or blurriness.
You might also experience depression, nerve damage and problems with your feet, such as sores or infections that simply won’t heal.
In the case of pregnant women suffering from gestational diabetes, the babies may be born prematurely, jaundiced, and overweight. Still births sometimes do occur. In uncontrolled cases, the mother-to-be’s life is also at risk.
How to treat and prevent diabetes
Your treatment will depend on the type of diabetes you have. Some medication is ingested, and some are injected into your blood system.
Type-1 diabetes is treated with insulin. It replaces the non-existent hormone. The medication is injected into your body and can be fast-acting or long-acting.
In most cases, exercise and diet can manage type-2 diabetes. If you’re unable to manage your condition, your doctor will prescribe medication such as meglitinides or sulfonylureas to stimulate your pancreas, glucagon-like peptides to change the way your body produces insulin, alpha-glucosidase inhibitors to slow the breakdown of sugars and starches, biguanides to reduce glucose levels in your liver, to name a few.
Monitor your diet
Limit your sugar and carbohydrate intake. While cakes, cookies, chocolates, potatoes, pasta and bread are delicious, these foods cause your blood sugar levels to rise rapidly. Rather, include more lean protein such as fish and chicken and good fats such as nuts and olives in your diet.
Also, try to avoid large meals. Instead, eat five to six smaller meals throughout the day. Remember to include lots of fruit, vegetables, and whole grains. Finally, consider speaking to a dietician to formulate a healthy and balanced meal plan for you.
If you have a family member with diabetes, or you suspect that you might be prediabetic, reach out to our team of doctors. Your health is our priority. You can book an appointment by calling one of our local General Practitioners or emailing email@example.com.