What is Diabetes?
Mart 28, 2024
What is diabetes?

Diabetes: What is it?

Diabetes mellitus is a metabolic disorder characterized by problems in regulating blood sugar. The body uses the insulin hormone to convert carbohydrates, especially sugars, from food into energy. Diabetes occurs when there is insufficient production of insulin or the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces.

Diabetes is a prevalent and significant health issue worldwide, exacerbated by the increasing rates of obesity. Each year, three million people lose their lives due to diabetes, making it the fourth leading cause of death globally.

Symptoms of Diabetes

Among the symptoms of diabetes are dry mouth, excessive thirst, frequent urination, and delayed wound healing. Other common symptoms include:

·         Dry mouth

·         Severe hunger or, conversely, loss of appetite

·         Constant need for water intake

·         Frequent urination

·         Nighttime urination

·         Rapid weight loss

·         Blurred vision

·         Numbness, tingling, and burning in the feet

·         Susceptibility to urinary tract infections

·         Genital infections in women

·         Frequent fungal infections around the mouth and genital area

·         Itching, dryness, and cracks on the skin

·         Fatigue

Causes of Diabetes

The primary causes of diabetes include genetic factors and environmental risk factors such as:

·         Genetic predisposition

·         Obesity

·         Sedentary lifestyle

·         Unhealthy eating habits

·         Advanced age

·         Diseases like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), hypertension, high cholesterol, and sleep apnea

·         High blood sugar levels during pregnancy

·         Environmental factors like stress, smoking, and air pollution

Types of Diabetes

There are several types of diabetes, with the most common being type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, and gestational diabetes.

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes results from an attack by the immune system on the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. This attack leads to the destruction of beta cells and a decrease in insulin production. Typically starting in childhood or young adulthood, type 1 diabetes requires lifelong insulin therapy.

Symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes

Symptoms of type 1 diabetes usually manifest quickly and include:

·         Increasing thirst

·         Dry mouth

·         Frequent urination (especially at night)

·         Bedwetting in children

·         Feeling hungry even after eating

·         Involuntary weight loss

·         Irritability and other mood changes

·         Feeling very tired

·         Blurred vision

·         Slow healing of wounds or cuts

·         Frequent urinary or vaginal infections

·         Severe shortness of breath

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body cannot use insulin effectively or does not produce enough insulin. It is often associated with factors like obesity, age, genetics, and lifestyle habits. While typically appearing in adulthood, there is a recent increase in cases among children and adolescents. Lifestyle changes, diet, and exercise can control type 2 diabetes, but in advanced cases, medication or insulin may be necessary.

Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes

Symptoms of type 2 diabetes develop more slowly and may not be immediately apparent. They typically include:

·         Frequent urination

·         Dry mouth

·         Excessive thirst

·         Feeling hungry

·         Slow healing of skin wounds

·         Dry and itchy skin

·         Recurrent infections

·         Numbness and tingling in hands and feet

·         Fatigue

·         Unexplained weight loss and muscle wasting

·         Itching or frequent occurrence of thrush in the genital area

·         Slow healing of cuts and wounds

·         Vision problems

Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy and usually resolves after childbirth. It results from increased insulin resistance in the body and changes in insulin production by the pancreas. Managing blood sugar levels through diet and, if necessary, insulin use is crucial during pregnancy to ensure a healthy delivery.

Symptoms of Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes often does not show symptoms, but when present, may include:

·         Frequent urination

·         Excessive thirst

·         Glucose in the urine

·         Recurrent urinary/vaginal infections

·         Nausea and weakness

Diagnosis of Diabetes

The primary diagnostic tests for diabetes are fasting blood sugar measurement and the oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT). A fasting blood sugar level below 100 mg/dL is normal, while levels above 126 mg/dL indicate diabetes. The OGTT involves fasting for at least 8 hours, drinking a glucose solution, and then measuring blood sugar levels at specific intervals. An HbA1c test, measuring the average blood sugar over the past 2-3 months, with a result of 6.5% or higher, supports a diabetes diagnosis.

Diabetes Treatment

Treatment methods for diabetes vary depending on the type. Lifestyle changes, such as a balanced diet, regular exercise, and weight management, are crucial for all diabetes patients. Type 2 diabetes may require oral antidiabetic medications, while type 1 diabetes necessitates lifelong insulin therapy. Regular monitoring of blood sugar levels is essential, either through at-home testing or laboratory tests.

Diabetes education is integral to treatment, providing patients and their families with knowledge about the disease, proper nutrition, learning to monitor blood sugar levels, and adjusting their lives accordingly.

Nutrition for Diabetes Patients

Diabetes patients should adopt a balanced and healthy diet to control blood sugar levels, manage weight, and support overall health. Key dietary recommendations include:

·         Balanced consumption of carbohydrates, avoiding high-glycemic index foods to prevent rapid blood sugar spikes. Opt for complex carbohydrates like whole-grain bread, bulgur, and oatmeal.

·         Regular intake of balanced meals throughout the day to prevent hunger and avoid overeating. Meals should include protein, healthy fats, and fiber-rich foods.

·         Paying attention to portion sizes to prevent rapid blood sugar increases. Opting for smaller, more frequent meals can be beneficial.

·         Choosing unsaturated fats, such as olive oil, avocado, and omega-3 fatty acid-rich foods, while avoiding trans fats and saturated fats.

·         Including fiber-rich foods like vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains to slow down digestion and help maintain stable blood sugar levels.

·         Regularly consuming protein sources like chicken, fish, eggs, and legumes to provide a feeling of fullness and support muscle health.

·         Avoiding sugary beverages and opting for water or sugar-free drinks.

·         Regulating salt intake to help control blood pressure by avoiding processed foods and overly salty meals.

In summary, diabetes is a complex health condition that requires a holistic approach to management, including lifestyle changes, medication, and regular monitoring. By adopting a balanced and informed approach to nutrition and overall health, individuals with diabetes can lead healthier lives and reduce the risk of complications.

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