Diabetes happens when your body isn’t able to take up sugar (glucose) into its cells and use it for energy. This results in a build-up of extra sugar in your bloodstream. In this post, Pritish Kumar Halder explained Diabetes and its treatments.

Poorly controlled diabetes can lead to serious consequences, causing damage to a wide range of your body’s organs and tissues – including your heart, kidneys, eyes, and nerves.

Measuring Diabetes

What are the different types of diabetes?

The types of diabetes are:

  • Type 1 diabetes: This type is an autoimmune disease, meaning your body attacks itself. In this case, the insulin-producing cells in your pancreas are destroyed. Up to 10% of people who have diabetes have Type 1. It’s usually diagnosed in children and young adults (but can develop at any age). It was once better known as “juvenile” diabetes. People with Type 1 diabetes need to take insulin every day. This is why it is also called insulin-dependent diabetes.
  • Type 2 diabetes: With this type, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or your body’s cells don’t respond normally to the insulin. This is the most common type of diabetes. Up to 95% of people with diabetes have Type 2. It usually occurs in middle-aged and older people. Other common names for Type 2 include adult-onset diabetes and insulin-resistant diabetes. Your parents or grandparents may have called it “having a touch of sugar.”
  • Prediabetes: This type is the stage before Type 2 diabetes. Your blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be officially diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.
  • Gestational diabetes: This type develops in some women during their pregnancy. Gestational diabetes usually goes away after pregnancy. However, if you have gestational diabetes you’re at higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes later on in life.

Less common types of diabetes include:

Monogenic diabetes syndromes: These are rare inherited forms of diabetes accounting for up to 4% of all cases. Examples are neonatal diabetes and maturity-onset diabetes of the young.

Cystic fibrosis-related diabetes: This is a form of diabetes specific to people with this disease.

Drug or chemical-induced diabetes: Examples of this type happen after organ transplant, following HIV/AIDS treatment or are associated with glucocorticoid steroid use.

Diabetes insipidus is a distinct rare condition that causes your kidneys to produce a large amount of urine.

Who gets diabetes? What are the risk factors?

Factors that increase your risk differ depending on the type of diabetes you ultimately develop.

Risk factors for Type 1 diabetes include:

  • Having a family history (parent or sibling) of Type 1 diabetes.
  • Injury to the pancreas (such as by infection, tumor, surgery or accident).
  • Presence of autoantibodies (antibodies that mistakenly attack your own body’s tissues or organs).
  • Physical stress (such as surgery or illness).
  • Exposure to illnesses caused by viruses.

Risk factors for prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes include:

  • Family history (parent or sibling) of prediabetes or Type 2 diabetes.
  • Being African-American, Hispanic, Native American, Asian-American race or Pacific Islander.
  • Being overweight.
  • Having high blood pressure.
  • Having low HDL cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol) and high triglyceride level.
  • Being physically inactive.
  • Being age 45 or older.
  • Having gestational diabetes or giving birth to a baby weighing more than 9 pounds.
  • Being a smoker.
  • Having polycystic ovary syndrome.
  • Having a history of heart disease or stroke.

Risk factors for gestational diabetes include:

  • Being overweight before your pregnancy.
  • Family history (parent or sibling) of prediabetes or Type 2 diabetes.
  • Being African-American, Hispanic, Native American or Asian-American.
  • Being over 25 years of age.

What are the symptoms of diabetes?

Symptoms of diabetes include:

  • Increased thirst.
  • Weak, tired feeling.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet.
  • Slow-healing sores or cuts.
  • Unplanned weight loss.
  • Frequent urination.
  • Frequent unexplained infections.
  • Dry mouth.

Other symptoms

In women: Dry and itchy skin, and frequent yeast infections or urinary tract infections.

In men: Decreased sex drive, erectile dysfunction, decreased muscle strength.

Type 1 diabetes symptoms: Symptoms can develop quickly – over a few weeks or months. Symptoms begin when you’re young – as a child, teen or young adult. Additional symptoms include nausea, vomiting or stomach pains and yeast infections or urinary tract infections.

Type 2 diabetes and prediabetes symptoms: You may not have any symptoms at all or may not notice them since they develop slowly over several years. Symptoms usually begin to develop when you’re an adult, but prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes is on the rise in all age groups.

Gestational diabetes: You typically will not notice symptoms. Your obstetrician will test you for gestational diabetes between 24 and 28 weeks of your pregnancy.

What happens if my blood glucose level is low?

Having a blood glucose level that is lower than the normal range (usually below 70 mg/dL) is called hypoglycemia. This is a sign that your body gives out that you need sugar.

Symptoms you might experience if you have hypoglycemia include:

  • Weakness or shaking.
  • Moist skin, sweating.
  • Fast heartbeat.
  • Dizziness.
  • Sudden hunger.
  • Confusion.
  • Pale skin.
  • Numbness in mouth or tongue.
  • Irritability, nervousness.
  • Unsteadiness.
  • Nightmares, bad dreams, restless sleep.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Headaches, seizures.

What happens if my blood glucose level is high?

If you have too much glucose in your blood, you have a condition called hyperglycemia. Hyperglycemia is defined as:

A blood glucose level greater than 125 mg/dL while in the fasting state (nothing to eat or drink for at least eight hours). Or A blood glucose level greater than 180 mg/dL one to two hours after eating.

What are the complications of diabetes?

If your blood glucose level remains high over a long period of time, your body’s tissues and organs can be seriously damaged. Some complications can be life-threatening over time.

Complications include:

  • Cardiovascular issues including coronary artery disease, chest pain, heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries).
  • Nerve damage (neuropathy) that causes numbing and tingling that starts at toes or fingers then spreads.
  • Kidney damage (nephropathy) that can lead to kidney failure or the need for dialysis or transplant.
  • Eye damage (retinopathy) that can lead to blindness; cataracts, glaucoma.
  • Foot damage including nerve damage, poor blood flow and poor healing of cuts and sores.
  • Skin infections.
  • Erectile dysfunction.
  • Hearing loss.
  • Depression.
  • Dementia.
  • Dental problems.

Complications of gestational diabetes:

In the mother: Preeclampsia (high blood pressure, excess protein in urine, leg/feet swelling), risk of gestational diabetes during future pregnancies and risk of diabetes later in life.

In the newborn: Higher-than-normal birth weight, low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes over time and death shortly after birth.