For over 382 million people worldwide, living with diabetes is a normal part of life. For some, they know nothing different, while for others, it is a lifestyle change that they have to adapt to. Diabetes, also known as diabetes mellitus, is when a person has high blood glucose (blood sugar), as a result of inadequate insulin production, or because a person’s body does not respond properly to insulin. In some cases, it can be a result of both of these circumstances. The most common symptoms associated with diabetes is polyuria (frequent urination), extreme thirst, and increased appetite.
There are three different types of diabetes that can affect people of different ages, and in some instances, they are a result of an individual’s lifestyle. The three different types of diabetes are: Type 1, Type 2, and Gestational Diabetes.
Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 Diabetes, also known as insulin-dependent diabetes, juvenile diabetes, or early-onset diabetes, is where the body does not produce insulin. Those who have Type 1 develop the disease before turning 20, generally in their teenage years or early adulthood. Out of all of the diabetes cases, only approximately 10% are Type 1, making it nowhere as common as Type 2.
Currently there is no cure for Type 1, so those who have it will have to take insulin injections for the rest of their lives. Along with insulin injections, individuals have to follow a strict diet, and carry out regular blood tests to ensure that they are maintaining proper blood-glucose levels.
Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 Diabetes is the most common type of diabetes, with approximately 90% of all diabetes cases in the world being Type 2. When the body does not produce enough insulin required for proper function, or when cells in the body stop reacting to insulin (insulin resistance), this results in Type 2 Diabetes.
People that are more susceptible to developing Type 2 are those who are overweight or obese. Those individuals who have a lot of visceral fat, also known as central obesity, abdominal obesity, or belly fat, are at an especially higher risk. Being overweight, combined with being physically inactive and eating the wrong foods, can all contribute to an individual’s risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes.
Being overweight is not the only cause for developing Type 2. As we get older, our chances of developing Type 2 increase. Individuals who have a close relative with Type 2, and those of Middle Eastern, African, or South Asian descent, also have an increased risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes.
Gestational Diabetes affects females during pregnancy. It happens to women who have high levels of glucose in their blood, and whose bodies are unable to produce enough insulin to transport all of the glucose into their cells. The inability to transport glucose into cells results in continually rising levels of glucose. Just like with Types 1 and 2 Diabetes, women can control their diabetes through diet and exercise. Between 10-20% of pregnant women who develop Gestational Diabetes will need to take some type of blood-glucose-controlling medications. If it goes undiagnosed or uncontrolled, there can be increased risk of complications during childbirth. Before becoming pregnant, women whose diet contained high amounts of animal fat and cholesterol have a higher risk for developing Gestational Diabetes during their pregnancy.
Regardless of the type of diabetes, all types are treatable. Unfortunately, Type 1 lasts a lifetime with no known cure. Type 2 generally lasts a lifetime as well, however, some people have been able to completely eliminate their symptoms without the use of medication, through exercise and weight control. Those who have Type 1 are treated with regular insulin injections, exercise, and a special diet. Individuals who have Type 2 are usually treated with tablets instead of insulin injections, exercise, and a special diet. In some cases, insulin injections may also be required. If diabetes is not properly controlled, individuals have a substantially higher risk of developing complications due to uncontrolled diabetes.
Possible complications that can be a result of uncontrolled diabetes include:
- Eye Problems: Glaucoma, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, and others.
- Foot Problems: Neuropathy, ulcers, and sometimes gangrene, which may result in the foot being amputated.
- Skin Problems: Those with diabetes are more prone to skin infections and disorders.
- Ischemic Heart Disease: This is a condition where the blood supply to the heart muscle is diminished.
- Hypertension: Raises the risk of kidney disease, eye problems, heart attack, and stroke.
- Mental Health: Depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders.
- Hearing Loss: Higher risk of developing hearing problems.
- Gum Disease: Higher prevalence of gum disease in those who have diabetes.
- Gastroparesis: The stomach muscles stop working properly.
- Hyperosmolar Hyperglycemic Nonketoic Syndrome (HHNS): Blood glucose levels shoot up to exceptionally high levels, where no ketones are present in blood or urine. This is an emergency situation.
- Nephropathy: Uncontrolled blood pressure leading to kidney disease.
- Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD): Pain in the leg, tingling and sometimes problems with walking.
- Stroke: When blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood glucose are not controlled, the chances of having a stroke increase substantially.
- Healing Problems: Cuts and lacerations take much longer to heal.
Diabetes is a condition that can have substantial consequences if left untreated. For those who are diabetic, it is important to regularly check blood-sugar levels to ensure that there are no potential complications lurking. For more information about your treatments and diagnosis, speak with your physician.