Diabetes can strike any one- male or female, young or old, from any background- poor or rich. Globally it affects over 380 million people. As per the WHO, by the year 2030, the number of persons afflicted with diabetes will double. Suffering from diabetes poses a great amount of financial, physical and emotional burden on the whole family.
What is diabetes?
When you eat, food inside your body is converted to sugar and glucose. This also results in the release of the hormone insulin by the pancreas. Insulin functions as a ‘key’ to permit glucose to enter body cells as well as to use glucose for energy. When you suffer from diabetes, this process is impaired.
Diabetes can be caused by many reasons. The most common forms are Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes but there are other types like gestational diabetes (occurring during pregnancy). Diabetes types and treatment varies from person to person.
In normal case, insulin helps blood glucose to enter cells; when glucose enters cells, blood sugar levels drop. But in case of a person suffering from diabetes, the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood is elevated (hyperglycemia). The reasons are: body does not produce enough insulin/ it does not produce any insulin/ or body cells do not respond to insulin released by the pancreas.
This results in excess blood glucose that is passed out of the body through the urine. Thus, though there is high glucose in the blood, the body cells are lacking it for essential growth and energy needs.
Basically, there are three kinds of diabetes:
- Type 1 diabetes
In this case, the body simply fails to produce insulin. This diabetes is also called as juvenile diabetes/ early- onset diabetes / insulin- dependent diabetes. This type of diabetes occurs before 40 years of age, often in teenage and early adulthood.
This form of diabetes is uncommon. Only 10% of diabetes belong to the Type 1 category. Patients need to take insulin injections, the rest of their lives. They must also maintain normal blood sugar levels by conducting regular blood tests or following a special diet.
- Type 2 diabetes:
In this case, the body does not produce enough insulin or there is insulin resistance: body cells do not respond to insulin. Worldwide, 90 % of diabetes patients suffer from Type 2 diabetes.
Many patients are able to control their symptoms of diabetes by regular exercise, healthy diet, controlling weight and regular monitoring of blood glucose levels. But this form of diabetes is a progressive disease- it worsens gradually and patients may have to consume insulin, usually in tablet form.
Obese, over-weight, physically inactive and those following unhealthy diet have a higher propensity to develop diabetes. Persons with lots of visceral fat (central obesity/ belly fat) are particularly at risk. Obesity causes body to release chemicals which de-stabilizes the metabolic and cardio-vascular systems of the body.
- Gestational diabetes:
This afflicts women during pregnancy. In this case, some women have high blood glucose levels and lack enough insulin in body to transport glucose to their body cells. Diagnosis of this type is done during pregnancy. Majority of patents can control this by diet and exercise. Ten to twenty percent have to consume blood sugar controlling medicines. Untreated diabetes can cause complications at child- birth.
Medical treatment of diabetes depends on the type and stage of diabetes. This helps to avoid complications like hyper tension, cardiac problems, stroke, skin/ eye/ foot complications, slow healing of wounds etc.