March 27, 2023
Dr Msonter Anzaa
Diabetes mellitus is the medical name for what is commonly known as sugar disease. Medically, it is diagnosed when a person has a blood sugar greater than the normal level. Blood sugar comes from a number of sources, but the body of a healthy person has mechanisms to control the sugar and keep it within the normal range. When the body loses this control, and the blood sugar becomes higher than the normal range, the person is said to have diabetes mellitus.
Diabetes is classified in a number of ways depending on how the condition happens. Usually, when a person eats carbohydrates, the food is broken down into simple molecules for the body to absorb into the blood. These molecules are called sugar, although they are not all in the form of the table sugar sold in the market. The body produces a hormone called insulin that converts the excess sugar in the blood to glycogen which is stored in the liver and muscles. This conversion is hindered in people with diabetes, either because insulin is totally unavailable or not available in required quantities.
Type 1 Diabetes: This was also referred to as insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. It results from absolute lack of insulin. It is an auto-immune condition in which the body produces antibodies that attack and destroy the cells of the pancreas that produce insulin. As a result, insulin is not produced and excess blood sugar cannot be converted and stored, hence the blood sugar remains high. It was considered insulin-dependent because medical treatment was to give the patient external insulin.
Type 2 Diabetes: This was also known as non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. In this case, unlike type 1, the person produces insulin from the cells of the pancreas. However, this insulin is not enough or, for other reasons, is not able to effectively convert excess blood sugar. This is usually the case in people who are obese in whom it is believed that excess fat dampen insulin receptors and make the receptors respond poorly to the insulin in circulation.
Medical treatment for this uses drugs that increase insulin secretion. It also uses insulin from an external source to augment what the body is already producing.
There are other types of diabetes such as the one associated with pregnancy in which a previously non-diabetic woman becomes diabetic in the course of a pregnancy.
Although what happens in the body of a person with diabetes is known, why it happens is not as clear. However, risk factors exist, which make one person more likely to have the condition than another person.
Family history: People who have family members, especially those of the nuclear family, with diabetes have a higher chance of developing the condition. This is a relative risk and does not mean all people with family history must develop the condition themselves.
Obesity: It has also been found that obese persons have a higher risk of developing diabetes than non-obese individuals.
Sedentary living: Also, persons who live sedentary lifestyles stand a higher risk of coming down with diabetes than those who live more active lives.
Persons with diabetes may notice all or some of the following symptoms:
Polyuria: This refers to passing very large volumes of urine at a frequency greater than usual. Usually, the person notices that they wake up to urinate multiple times in the course of each night.
Polydypsia: This refers to unusual thirst.
Polyphagia: This refers to unusual hunger.
Weight loss: Persons with diabetes may notice that despite unusual hunger and frequent eating, they are losing weight unintentionally.
Diabetes has a number of complications which result when the blood sugar is not well-controlled over a long time. These complications affect the eyes, kidneys, nervous system, sexual function, and so on.
High blood glucose levels can also result in diabetic emergencies which, if not promptly controlled, can result in death.
Dietary modification is the commonest non-pharmacological method of controlling diabetes. Known diabetics or those at high risk of developing the condition can control it by avoiding or reducing, unhealthier sources of carbohydrates such as pastries, sodas and other highly processed or refined foods. Those who are obese can also improve their situation by living more active lives and reducing their weight.
There are also drugs available to help with long-term control of diabetes, but they do not cure the condition.
Do you have a family history of diabetes, currently taking antidiabetic medications or do you think you are at risk of developing diabetes in some ways? Click here to talk to a doctor today.
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