Understanding Diabetes for better Diabetes Care
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects the way our body processes blood sugar or glucose. When we eat, our body breaks down food into glucose which is then transported to our cells by insulin - a hormone produced by the pancreas. In people with diabetes, their body either does not produce enough insulin or cannot use it effectively, leading to a buildup of glucose in the blood.
Prevalence of Diabetes
Diabetes is a significant health concern worldwide, and the number of people with diabetes has been increasing steadily over the past few decades. According to the NHS, there are more than 4.8 million people in the UK living with diabetes, and it is estimated that by 2030, this number could rise to 5.5 million. This increase is due to a combination of factors, including an ageing population and unhealthy lifestyle habits such as poor diet and lack of physical activity.
Hence, it is essential for people with diabetes to take an active role in managing their condition. This involves regular monitoring of blood sugar levels, making healthy lifestyle choices, taking medications as prescribed, and working closely with healthcare professionals to develop an individualised diabetes care plan. Actively managing diabetes can reduce their risk of developing complications and improve their overall quality of life.
Types of Diabetes
Glucose (from the food we eat) is the main source of energy for the cells in our body, and insulin is the hormone that allows glucose to enter cells and breaks it down into energy. When the body is unable to produce enough insulin or use it effectively, glucose builds up in the bloodstream, leading to high blood sugar levels or diabetes.
There are three main types of diabetes.
Type 1 Diabetes
In Type 1 diabetes (also known as insulin-dependent diabetes), the body's immune system attacks and destroys the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. This type of diabetes typically develops in childhood or early adulthood and requires lifelong insulin therapy.
Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes (also known as non-insulin-dependent diabetes) is characterised by insulin resistance, which means that the body's cells do not respond to insulin as effectively as they should or when the body does not produce enough insulin. It is the most common form of diabetes, accounting for 90% of all cases. It typically develops in middle-aged or older adults, but can also occur in children and young adults.
Gestational diabetes develops during pregnancy. It occurs when the hormones produced by the placenta interfere with the body's ability to use insulin effectively. Gestational diabetes usually goes away after pregnancy, but such women who are at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
While type 1 diabetes requires lifelong insulin therapy, type 2 diabetes can often be managed with lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise, along with oral medications or insulin therapy if needed. Gestational diabetes also requires careful management during pregnancy to ensure the good health of both mother and baby.
What Causes Diabetes?
Diabetes is a metabolic disorder that is characterised by high blood sugar levels. While the exact cause of type 1 diabetes is not fully understood, there are certain factors that increase the risk of developing the disease in general.
Genetics: People with a family history of diabetes are at a higher risk of developing diabetes during their life times.
Inactivity or Sedentary Lifestyle: Lack of physical activity and a sedentary lifestyle can lead to obesity, which is a significant risk factor for diabetes as the body is unable to utilise glucose effectively.
Unhealthy Diet: A diet that is high in calories, carbohydrates, and unhealthy fats can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Foods that are rich in sugar and processed junk foods also increase the risk of diabetes.
Age: The risk of developing type 2 diabetes increases with age. This is because the body becomes less efficient at utilising glucose, and the risk of obesity and other health issues also increases.
Gestational Diabetes: Women who develop diabetes during pregnancy are at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease meaning the immune system of the body attacks and destroys the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin irreversibly. It is not linked with age or being overweight.
If you experience any of the following signs, it is important to consult your doctor immediately to check for diabetes:
- Feeling increased thirst
- Frequent urination particularly during night
- Increased hunger
- Blurred vision
- Fatigue and weakness
- Slow healing of wounds or infections
- Tingling or numbness in hands or feet
- Weight loss and loss of muscle bulk
Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial in managing diabetes and preventing complications. Regular check-ups, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and following a balanced diet are some of the ways to manage the disease.
Here are some Effective ways for Diabetes Management to live a healthy life with diabetes.
Other Complications Related with Diabetes
Diabetes can lead to several complications if left unmanaged. High blood glucose levels over a prolonged period of time can cause damage to the nerves and blood vessels in different parts of the body, leading to a variety of complications. Here are some of the common complications related to diabetes:
Diabetes and Foot Problems
Foot related problems are the most common in people with diabetes, and even lead to amputation if not treated proactively. High blood glucose levels can damage the nerves and blood vessels in the feet, causing numbness and poor blood circulation. This can lead to foot ulcers, infections, and even gangrene.
People with diabetes should take special care of their feet. They should inspect their feet regularly, wear comfortable shoes and socks, and avoid walking barefoot. They should also maintain good foot hygiene, keep their feet dry, and avoid exposure to extreme temperatures. Here are some Easy Ways to Care for Your Feet and Avoid Complication.
Eye and Vision Related Issues
High blood glucose levels can damage the blood vessels in the retina, leading to a condition called diabetic retinopathy. This can cause vision loss and even blindness if left unattended. People with diabetes are also at a higher risk of developing dry eyes, cataracts and glaucoma.
To prevent such issues, it is important to maintain good blood glucose control. People (older than 12 years) with diabetes should have their eyes checked regularly by an eye specialist, and they should report any changes in their vision or eye health to their doctor immediately.
Diabetes Remission: Is it possible to reverse Diabetes?
Although diabetes is a chronic condition, it is possible to achieve remission in several cases of type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes remission is a state in which blood glucose levels remain normal without the use of medications. It can be achieved through various methods, including weight loss, diet changes, and increased physical activity. In fact, studies have shown that weight loss of around 15 kilograms (33 pounds) can lead to remission in nearly half of individuals with type 2 diabetes. Additionally, a low-carbohydrate diet has also been shown to improve glycemic control and promote remission in people with type 2 diabetes.
At the same time, it is important to note that remission does not mean a cure. Diabetes can still return, and individuals who achieve remission must continue to monitor their blood glucose levels and maintain a healthy lifestyle to prevent relapse.
Moreover, diabetes remission is more likely to be achieved in the early stages of the condition. Therefore, it is important to get an early diagnosis and start making lifestyle changes as soon as possible.
Living with diabetes can challenging. However, with proper care and management, it is possible to avoid complications, and lead a healthy, active lifestyle. Reversing type 2 diabetes is also possible in some cases. It is important to work closely with the healthcare team and take an active role in managing diabetes to live confidently with diabetes.