What is Diabetes?
Diabetes Mellitus is a chronic metabolic condition, caused when a person’s blood glucose levels are consistently high, also known as hyperglycaemia.
Carbohydrates that we eat are broken into glucose when digested, the glucose is absorbed and released into our bloodstream, which is used for energy or stored for later. When the glucose released is not stored away remaining in excess, it increases our blood sugar levels. This occurs when the body does not produce sufficient insulin, a hormone made in the pancreas, which control blood glucose levels, or when the body’s cells do not react to the insulin produced.
There are two type of Diabetes. Diabetes Type 1, also known as juvenile diabetes, comes about due to the body’s inability to produce any insulin. People suffering from Diabetes Type 1 are usually diagnosed in their childhood and remain insulin dependent through their lives. Diabetes type 2 is more common, and occurs when the body doesn’t produce enough insulin or when the body’s cells don't react, or both. There are almost 4 million people living with diabetes in the UK, 90% of whom suffer from Type 2.
Diabetes Type 2
Blood glucose levels are measured in millimoles per litre (mmol/L). A level between 4- 6mmol/L when fasting indicates normal blood sugar levels, between 6-7mmol/L indicates a high risk of developing the condition, while 7mmol/L or above indicates diabetes.
Diabetes Type 2 is closely associated with obesity. At first it can be managed with regular exercise, change in lifestyle habits and healthy eating, however as it progresses, medication is prescribed to keep blood glucose levels normal. Diabetes can come about due to a series of risk factors such as age, family history, lifestyle habits, obesity etc. and can have serious long-term effects, most commonly leading to cardiovascular diseases, kidney failure (nephropathy), loss of vision (retinopathy), nerve damage (neuropathy) and even dental problems. It is extremely important to diagnose your condition as early as possible and effectively manage it.
Signs and symptoms for Diabetes Type 2 aren’t always obvious, as they begin mildly and progress gradually over time. You may have it for many years without realising it. However, there are certain symptoms associated with Diabetes, which come about due to the presence of excessive glucose in your blood, and your body’s effort to get rid of it, these include;
Feeling very thirsty:Excessive sugar buildup in your bloodstream causes fluid to be pulled from the tissues, leaving you thirsty.
Hunger:Without glucose being absorbed into your cells, your muscles and organs become depleted of energy.
Excessive urination:Passing more urine than usual, especially at night.
Fatigue: Feeling unusually tired all the time
Unexplained weight loss: Without the ability to metabolise glucose, the body uses other fuels stored in muscle and fat. Calories are lost as excess glucose is released in the urine.
Itching in the gential areas
Cuts or wounds: That heal particularly slowly
Blurred vision: Fluid is pulled from your eyes lenses, blurring vision.
Skin conditions: You may develop patches of dark, velvety skin in the folds of the body, signifying insulin resistance.
It is estimated that 50% of people with Diabetes aren’t aware of it. It is recommended that everyone over the age of 40, or if they have a higher risk for Diabetes due to factors such as family history, ethnic origin and unhealthy lifestyle habits, has a regular blood test for Diabetes. If caught early, Diabetes can be managed through exercise, dietary changes and medication, avoiding long-term complications such as heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, loss of vision or nerve damage.