What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs either when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces. Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood glucose (also known as blood sugar). Blood glucose is the body’s main source of energy.
Insulin helps blood glucose get into the cells to be used for energy. For diabetes sufferers, this process is impaired. Over time, having too much glucose in the bloodstream can cause major health problems. Although diabetes has no cure, steps can be taken to control the disease and stay healthy.
Type 1 diabetes
Type 1 diabetes can develop at any age, but occurs most frequently in children and adolescents. With type 1 diabetes, the body produces very little or no insulin, which requires daily insulin injections to keep blood glucose levels under control.
Type 2 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is more common in adults and accounts for around 90% of all diabetes cases. Type 2 diabetes affects the body’s ability to make good use of the insulin that it produces. The cornerstone of type 2 diabetes treatment is a healthy lifestyle, including increased physical activity and a healthy diet.
What are the causes of diabetes?
Too much glucose circulating in the bloodstream causes diabetes, regardless of the type. However, the reason why blood glucose levels are high differs depending on the type of diabetes.
Causes of diabetes include:
Insulin resistance: Type 2 diabetes mainly results from insulin resistance. Insulin resistance happens when cells in your muscles, fat, and liver don’t respond as they should to insulin. Several factors and conditions contribute to varying degrees of insulin resistance, including obesity, lack of physical activity, a diet high in refined carbohydrates, hormonal imbalances, genetics, and certain medications.
- Autoimmune disease: Type 1 diabetes presents when the immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas
- Hormonal imbalances: During pregnancy, the placenta releases hormones that cause insulin resistance. Gestational diabetes is possible if the pancreas can’t produce enough insulin to overcome insulin resistance. Other hormone-related conditions like Cushing’s syndrome can also cause Type 2 diabetes
- Pancreatic damage: Physical damage to the pancreas — from a condition, surgery, or injury — can impact its ability to make insulin, resulting in diabetes
- Genetic mutations: Certain genetic mutations can cause rare forms of diabetes. Family history and ethnicity can also play a part in contributing to the onset of diabetes
- Monitor blood sugar
- Take diabetes medicines
- 30 minutes (or the amount that is right for you) of physical activity each day
- Eat healthy natural foods, low in sugar, to keep blood glucose in range
- Check feet for skin or nail changes
- Get an A1C blood test (every 3 months if blood glucose is too high)
- Meeting with a primary care provider to review the care schedule and treatment plan
- Blood pressure, weight, and foot check
- Full physical check-up from the primary care provider
- Complete foot check
- Check cholesterol and body lipid profile test
- A complete (dilated) eye exam by an Optician
- Kidney tests
Those suffering from diabetes can develop an eye disease called diabetic retinopathy. If retinopathy is diagnosed, usually from an eye screening test, it can be treated, and sight loss prevented.
Having diabetes can cause serious foot problems, which can lead to amputation if untreated. Nerve damage can affect the feeling in one’s feet and raised blood glucose can damage circulation, making it slower for sores and cuts to heal.
High blood sugar over a period of time can damage blood vessels. This can sometimes lead to heart attacks and strokes.
Diabetes can cause damage to the kidneys making it harder to clear excess fluid and waste from the body. This is caused by high blood sugar levels and high blood pressure. It is known as diabetic nephropathy or kidney disease.
Diabetes sufferers may develop nerve damage (neuropathy) caused by high blood glucose levels. This makes it harder for the nerves to carry messages between the brain and body.
High blood glucose levels can lead to more sugar in the saliva. This attracts bacteria that produce acid which attacks tooth enamel and damages gums. The blood vessels in the gums can also become damaged, making gums more likely to get infected.
People with diabetes are more at risk of developing certain cancers. And some cancer treatments can affect diabetes and make it harder to control blood glucose.
Damage to blood vessels and nerves can restrict the amount of blood flowing to sexual organs and may cause loss of sensation, or erectile dysfunction in men. Women are also more likely to get thrush or urinary tract infections.
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How do I arrange diabetes care?
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