Diabetes mellitus refers to a group of diseases that affect how your body uses blood sugar (glucose). In simpler terms, Diabetes is a metabolic disorder in which your blood glucose or sugar levels are too high.

Glucose is vital to your health because it’s an important source of energy for the cells that make up your muscles and tissues. It’s also your brain’s main source of fuel. Your pancreas produce a hormone called insulin that helps convert the glucose from the food you eat into energy. When the body either does not produce enough insulin, does not produce any at all, or your body becomes resistant to insulin, the glucose does not reach your cells to be used for energy.

The underlying cause of diabetes varies by type. But, no matter what type of diabetes you have, it can lead to excess sugar in your blood. Too much sugar in your blood can lead to serious health problems.

Causes of Diabetes

There are around 422 million adults with diabetes. Improper management can reduce lifespan, create complications including eye disease leading to blindness, kidney disease leading to kidney failure, amputation of the feet, cardiovascular diseases, and a host of other conditions. 

To understand the causes due to which diabetes occurs, you need to know how glucose is processed in your body on a regular basis.

Insulin is a hormone that comes from a gland situated behind and below the stomach (pancreas). Pancreas secretes insulin into the bloodstream which then circulates, enabling sugar to enter in your cells. The amount of sugar in your bloodstream is lowered because of the insulin. As your blood sugar level drops, so does the secretion of insulin from your pancreas.

What is the role of glucose in your body?

Glucose comes from two major sources: food and your liver. When sugar is absorbed into the bloodstream, it enters the cells with the help of insulin. Glucose is stored and made in your liver. In a situation when you have not eaten in a while, and your glucose levels are low, your liver breaks down the stored glycogen into glucose to keep your glucose level within a normal range.

Type 1 Diabetes- Causes

Although the exact cause of type 1 diabetes is unknown, research shows that your immune system, which fights harmful bacteria or virus attacks and destroys your insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. This leaves you with little or no insulin. Instead of being transported into your cells, sugar builds up in your bloodstream.

This type of diabetes can be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors, although the exact cause is unclear. It is however believed that weight is not a factor in type 1 diabetes.

Type 2 Diabetes- Causes

When it comes to prediabetes and type 2 diabetes, your body cells become resistant to insulin and its action. Your pancreas is unable to make enough insulin to overcome this resistance because of which sugar builds up in your bloodstream instead of moving into your cells.

It is believed that genetics and environmental factors play a role in type 2 diabetes as well. In this type of diabetes, being overweight is strongly linked to the development. However, not everyone with Type 2 diabetes is overweight.

Gestational Diabetes- Causes

During pregnancy, a woman’s placenta produces hormones to sustain the pregnancy. These hormones make your cells more resistant to insulin. Normally, the pancreas responds by producing enough extra insulin to overcome this resistance. But sometimes your pancreas can’t keep up. When this happens, too little glucose gets into your cells and too much stays in your blood, resulting in gestational diabetes.

Types of Diabetes

Chronic diabetes conditions include two types of diabetes- Type 1 Diabetes and Type 2 Diabetes.

Type 1 – With type 1 diabetes, your body does not make insulin. Due to the lack of insulin, the body does not take in the energy given and hence leaves the person affected with fatigue, lethargy and low energy.

Type 2 – With type 2 diabetes, the more common type, the body does not make or use insulin well. Without enough insulin, the glucose stays in your blood. One can also have prediabetes where the blood sugar is higher than normal but not high enough to be called diabetes. Having prediabetes puts you at a higher risk of getting type 2 diabetes.

Gestational diabetes- This type of diabetes occurs in women during pregnancy when the body can become less sensitive to insulin. Gestational diabetes does not occur in all women and usually resolves after giving birth.

Prevention of Diabetes

Diabetes can cause serious risks to health and needs to be watched over carefully. It’s very important to keep diabetes prevention as a priority if you’re at increased risk of diabetes, which is if you’re overweight, if you have a family history of the disease or if you have been diagnosed with prediabetes.

It all begins with making a few simple changes in your lifestyle that can go a long way and actually help avoid serious health complications.

Here are a few tips to prevent diabetes and lead a healthy lifestyle.

  • Consume a fiber-filled diet
  • Exercise
  • Lose excess weight
  • Make healthier choices
  • Regular checkups

Symptoms of Diabetes

Diabetes symptoms vary depending on how elevated the blood sugar is in your body. Type 1 often starts in childhood or adolescence, in a more severe form. People with Type 2 diabetes as well as prediabetes, on the other hand, may not experience symptoms initially and the condition may develop over the years, usually beginning after the age of 40. However, there are chances of it appearing earlier as well.

Although different conditions, Type 1 and Type 2 both involve problems with insulin, which leads to an inability to process glucose. As a result, there will be too much glucose in the blood and too little energy in the body’s cells.

Symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes

  • Increased appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss 
  • Increased thirst and frequent urination
  • Tiredness at all times
  • Blurred vision
  • Slow healing wounds
  • Muscle cramps
  • Skin infections
  • Itching
  • Irritability
  • A fruity smell from the breath

Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes 

  • Excessive thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Increased hunger
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Slow healing wounds, cuts, and sores
  • Frequent infections such as gums or skin infections as well as vaginal infections
  • Ketones in the urine (Byproducts of muscle and fat breakdowns that happens when there is not enough insulin)

Symptoms of Gestational Diabetes

  • Sugar in urine
  • Unusual thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Blurred vision
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Frequent vaginal, bladder and skin infections
  • Weight loss

Diagnosis

Your health care professional can diagnose diabetes, prediabetes, and gestational diabetes through blood tests. The blood tests show if your blood sugar is too high. It is strongly advised to not self diagnose if you suspect that you have diabetes. Testing equipment that you can buy over the counter, such as a blood glucose meter, cannot diagnose diabetes.

Treatments

Diabetes is a serious, chronic condition that requires attention and treatment by medical and certified professionals.  While diabetes itself is manageable, its complications can severely impact on daily living, and some can be fatal if not treated immediately. 

However, due to growing technology and medical care, diabetes can now be controlled and treated well before it’s too late.

Type 1 & Type 2 Diabetes Treatment

Type 1 diabetes occurs due to stopped insulin production. Hence, the body requires adequate amounts of insulin to treat the diabetic patient. There are different kinds of insulin for a patient with diabetes depending on their bodies such as rapid-acting, slow-acting, and moderate-acting insulin. There are also various ways to deliver insulin to the body such as syringes, pens, insulin pumps, etc.

Gestational Diabetes Treatment

Gestational diabetes can successfully be managed by regular physical activity and follow the diets as suggested by the doctor. Some women can also require medical management for effective blood sugar control. Controlling your blood sugar level is essential to keeping your baby healthy and avoiding complications during delivery. Treatment plans may include monitoring your blood sugar and, in some cases, using insulin or oral medications.