Diabetes is a commonly occurring health condition in which a person’s blood sugar levels are above the normal range. In a healthy person, all the carbohydrates consumed via food is digested to its simplest form, sugar. Insulin, secreted by the pancreas, helps in digesting glucose.
In a diabetic person, the production or functions of insulin are affected, which results in incomplete digestion of glucose. Thus, the amount of glucose in the circulating blood is higher than normal.
Types of Diabetes:
- Type I diabetes:
There is an inability of the pancreas to produce insulin. Thus the person needs insulin to be administered externally for treatment. It is a rarer form of diabetes. Its onset often occurs in childhood itself.
- Type II diabetes:
This is the more commonly seen variety of diabetes. Insulin production is not hampered, but there is an inability of the body to utilize the insulin properly. There is no need to provide insulin to his patient during treatment.
- Gestational Diabetes:
Diabetes which is diagnosed for the first time during pregnancy is known as gestational diabetes. It has to be monitored closely to avoid harm to the mother and unborn baby. Treatment has to be started promptly and followed till the doctor feels necessary.
Symptoms of Diabetes:
- Increased hunger:
The person may experience a surge in their appetite than the usual pattern. They may feel hungry more frequently and eat larger quantities.
- Increased thirst:
Diabetics may observe an increase in the quantity and frequency with which they consume water in comparison of their normal thirst pattern.
- Unexplained weight changes:
Sudden onset of weight loss may trigger the physician’s suspicion about diabetes in a patient. But diabetes is known to be associated with obesity as well. In such cases, the patients weigh more than what is normal for their weight and height.
- Increased urination:
A notable increase in the frequency of micturition is observed. Diabetics feel the urge to pass urine more frequently than their previous pattern.
- Vision disturbances:
This is a sign of advanced diabetes. When diabetes affects the retina there may be symptoms like hazy vision, double vision etc.
- Non-healing of wounds:
Uncontrolled diabetes affects an ability of the body to heal wounds at the normal rate. They may heal very late or not heal at all. This has been attributed to the high blood sugar levels which have a direct inhibitory effect on the healing process.
- Reduced sensation:
Sensation over the skin is reduced if diabetes worsens and affects the nerves.
- Recurrent infections:
Diabetics are more prone to developing recurrent infections of the skin, tongue, gums, occurs commonly in diabetics. High sugar levels help infective microorganisms to thrive for a longer duration.
- Kidney disorders:
Diabetes can advance and affect the kidneys if it is not treated properly. There could be swelling of the body, due to kidney’s inability to excrete unwanted matter outside the body. In severe cases, the person could develop kidney failure or even end up in a comatose state. This is however in cases where diabetes is severely neglected and the blood sugar levels are too high.
In some cases, where diabetic changes are just taking place, the patient may be totally asymptomatic. The condition will come to light only during a random blood test or other investigation.
There are different types of blood and urine tests which can be done for detection of diabetes. Some of them have been described below:
- Blood sugar test:
This is the blood test which is done first to detect diabetes. It is also the most reliable test. Blood sugar levels are checked on an empty stomach as well as after eating a full meal. There could be the abnormality in one or both the levels.
- HbA1C (Glycosylated Hemoglobin):
This blood test determines the levels of blood sugar in the hemoglobin for the past 4-6 weeks. It helps to determine the body’s ability to control diabetes and the chances of developing complications.
- Oral Glucose Tolerance test:
A glucose solution is provided for the patient to drink. Blood sugar levels are checked immediately. Another glucose solution is provided. 2 hours after this is consumed, blood sugar levels are checked again.
- Urine test:
Elevated levels of glucose in urine are diagnostic of diabetes. In advanced diabetes, ketones may be detected in urine.
Diabetes can be treated by the following methods:
- Non-medical treatment:
Initial stages of diabetes can be treated without any medical aid. Elevated blood sugars can be brought back to normal and maintained so, with proper diet and exercise. Dietary changes include avoiding consumption of foods rich in carbohydrates and fats. Foods high in fiber should be consumed more. Vegetables, cereals, whole grains, and fruits which do not contain excessive calories are often advised to be consumed more often.
An exercise regimen suiting the patient’s general health can be formed with the help of a fitness instructor. Exercise improves blood circulation which reduced blood sugar by transporting sugar within the cells of individual organs. Diabetes may be associated with high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, obesity. Regular physical exercise is beneficial for these conditions as well.
- Medical therapy:
Medicines which help to reduce the blood glucose level and bring it back to normal are the most common choice of treatment for type II diabetes.
- Insulin therapy:
Insulin is the hormone produced by the pancreas which keeps blood glucose levels to normal. As described earlier in the article, type I diabetes develops when there is non-formation of insulin. Hence to control the condition, insulin has to be administered externally in the form of injections.
- Treatment of other conditions associated with diabetes:
Obesity, high blood pressure, high levels of cholesterol are some common conditions known to occur hand in hand with diabetes. They require separate treatment in the form of medicines, surgery, dietary restrictions, exercise. A single therapy or a combination of the mentioned modes of treatment may be needed depending on the severity of symptoms.
- Admission to hospital:
If diabetes is not diagnosed and controlled well, there could be complications like unhealed wounds, kidney failure and in severe cases, diabetic coma. Patients may need to be hospitalized as advanced treatment may be required which require the patients to be monitored continuously. Patients are advised to be admitted to well-equipped hospitals with advanced diagnostic technology, proper treatment facilities, recuperation facilities and modern amenities.
Diabetes is a chronic condition requiring a long time to get treated. Medicines, dietary restrictions, exercise may need to be followed for a long time or even permanently to keep the condition at bay. Sometimes the conditions get cured completely. However, many people live with diabetes throughout their lives. But following the treatment regimen correctly will keep help these patients live a normal life.
Disclaimer: All images are provided by the author.
Pousali is a Freelance Medical Writer. She has two years of experience in writing articles on Health. She here explains how to living with diabetes.