Diabetes Symptoms, Causes, Complications and Management

Diabetes is characterized by an increase in blood glucose levels above normal due to the dysfunction of the pancreas to produce sufficient levels of a hormone called insulin or inadequate response of body cells to insulin. Insulin helps in the absorption of glucose into the body cells providing energy, but in diabetic patients, the body does not make or use insulin optimally, resulting in increased glucose levels in the blood.

The medical term for diabetes is Diabetes Mellitus (DM).

Two fasting blood glucose measurements above 100mg/dl confirm the presence of diabetes mellitus.

Studies have shown that diabetes can affect people of any age group and India is ranked at the top with the highest number of estimated cases of diabetes

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Types of Diabetes

There are four main types of diabetes.

Type 1 Diabetes – It is also called Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus (IDDM) or “juvenile diabetes”. Majority of these cases occur in children and is related to cell destruction, usually leading to absolute insulin deficiency.

Type 2 Diabetes – It is also called Non-Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus (NIDDM) because the body cells do not respond well to insulin or develop insulin resistance. It is linked to lifestyle factors and genetics. Type 2 usually affects most of the adults.

Type 3 Diabetes – Diabetes which occurs due to the specific genetic mutation.

Gestational Diabetes – This type of diabetes develops during pregnancy in some women and it gets resolved with the birth of a child.

Symptoms of Diabetes 

The classic symptoms of untreated diabetes are:

  • Weight loss
  • Frequent urination
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased hunger

In addition to the above symptoms, other symptoms may include:

  • Blurry vision
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Slow healing of cuts
  • Itchy skin

Symptoms may develop rapidly (within weeks or months) in type 1 diabetes, while they usually develop much more slowly and may be subtle or absent in type 2 diabetes.

Causes of Diabetes 

The cause of diabetes varies as per the type of diabetes:

  • Type 1 DM –It is linked to abnormal immune system of the body which causes destruction of insulin producing beta cells
  • Type 2 DM –The main cause is poor lifestyle choices such as diet deficiencies and inactivity
  • Type 3 DM –This occurs due to specific genetic mutation in the cells producing insulin
  • Gestational Diabetes –In this type of diabetes, the hormones produced to maintain pregnancy can sometimes make the body less responsive to insulin hormone

Risk Factors of Diabetes

Factors that increase the risk of diabetes are:

  • Family history (if a parent or sibling has type 1 diabetes)
  • Being overweight/ obese
  • Lack of regular exercise
  • Foods rich in sugar (Ice cream, chocolates, sugary drinks, etc.)
  • High blood pressure
  • High levels of cholesterol in the blood

Complications Due to Diabetes

Untreated diabetes leads to various complications like:

  • Eye conditions such as poor vision, glaucoma, cataract, blindness
  • Kidney failure
  • Heart problems like high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke
  • Numbness in hands or feet
  • Foot ulcer, in extreme conditions leading to amputation
  • Skin infections
  • Hearing loss
  • Memory loss

Prevention and Management of Diabetes

  • Eat a healthy diet (whole grains, papaya, fish, etc.)
  • Avoid sugar-rich food such as ice cream, chocolates, etc.
  • Do exercise or physical activity daily
  • Maintain a healthy body weight
  • Avoid smoking or alcohol intake

Management

Diagnosis: Fasting blood glucose measurements above 100mg/dl confirms the presence of diabetes mellitus. Treatment depends on the type of diabetes, age and overall condition of the patient:

  • Lifestyle modification: Planned nutritious diet and daily exercise is highly recommended
  • Medication:
    • Oral anti-diabetic drugs: Prescribed for type 2 diabetes e.g. Metformin, Gliclazide, Glimepiride, Pioglitazone, Sitagliptin, Canagliflozin, Exenatide, Voglibose etc.
    • Insulin therapy: Prescribed for type 1 diabetes e.g. rapid, short and long-acting insulin
  • Diabetes can also be a cure with Natural Remedies.

Treatment lays in managing proper blood sugar levels. Therefore, patients should manage blood sugar levels and monitor them regularly.

Points to Remember

  • Regularly monitor blood sugar levels and take prescribed medicines
  • Be physically active
  • Avoid sugary drinks and prefer to drink water, fresh juices, or lemon juice
  • Eat high fiber rich diet
  • Maintain a healthy weight

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