Diabetes Mellitus, more commonly known as simply Diabetes is a life-long health condition which affects a number of people around the world, some of them don’t even know that they have it. The condition is characterized by high amounts of blood sugar within the body, this can occur for a number of reasons depending on the type of diabetes that you are suffering from.
What causes diabetes ?
The amount of sugar in your blood is down to the production of a hormone known as insulin. This is produced within the pancreas. In a normal healthy person the glucose in your blood is aided into the cells of your body by the insulin. However, in diabetics this doesn’t happen, either because the pancreas isn’t producing any insulin or because your body has built up a resistance to the insulin. Since the glucose isn’t leaving your blood the your blood sugars are going to get pretty high quickly.
Types of diabetes
As I mentioned previously, there are two main types of diabetes, each of them occurs for a different reason and has a different effect on the body. Although they both have the same end result in that the levels of sugar in our blood is high.
The most common form of Diabetes is known as ‘Type 2 Diabetes’. Around 95% of sufferers of the condition suffer from Type 2. This is characterized by the fact that the body is able to produce insulin, but often it isn’t enough to take all of the blood sugar out of the system. In some cases it cannot be completely removed due to insulin resistance. The main cause of Diabetes Type 2 is the choice of lifestyle somebody leads. This is why people who are ‘overweight’ tend to be at most risk of suffering from diabetes i.e. consuming far too many sugars and dietary fats. The condition often appears in those over the age of forty, however research has shown that it is most common in black people and South Asians over the age of 25 which suggests that there could also be genetic factors at play. Whilst this was traditionally a disease that occurred mainly in those that are older, it is becoming increasingly popular to see the condition appear in younger children and adolescents.
Type 1 diabetes occurs is a factor in around 5% of cases. This condition develops when the cells that normally produce insulin in the body are unable to produce it any more as they have been destroyed. It is unknown what actually causes Type 1 diabetes. However, we do know that this is an inherited condition, partly at least. There are then certain diseases which can trigger the destruction of the cells, although the infections which can cause it haven’t been pinpointed yet. This means that people can suffer from type 1 diabetes at any stage in their life, as long as they have a genetic predisposition towards it. However, generally speaking the first signs of diabetes are normally in childhood or before the age of forty.
If you are diagnosed with diabetes then you are going to have to make huge changes to your life. This means that you may need to have daily insulin injections, take other forms of medication and in all cases will result in you needing to change your diet to help keep the symptoms under control. However, this isn’t the only impact of diabetes, and over the long term it can actually have a huge impact on the functioning of your organs, if you don’t keep it under control that is.
What is the impact of diabetes ?
To start with, diabetes can have a huge impact on your heart. In fact, it is a leading contributor to coronary heart disease, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. All of which can lead to heart attacks and cardiovascular disease if they are not treated properly.
In some cases, complications with diabetes can result in the loss of vision. This is down to a condition known as diabetic retinopathy. As this is a common condition your doctor will be on the look out for it, but also provide you with symptoms that you should check for yourself. If this condition is caught early then it is treatable, but if it isn’t then the results will be blurred vision, complete loss of sight and pain in your eyes.
If diabetes is poorly managed then it can have an effect on the kidneys. Often this happens over a number of years so the damage is normally spotted before it becomes too serious, but kidney disease is something that you should be worried about, and it may result in even more changes to your lifestyle, something which can be difficult to come to grips with.
Diabetes is also going to have an effect on your nerves over the years. This could lead to lack of pleasure during sex, excessive sweating or numbness or tingling in the body, often centred on the hands and feet. In addition to this, it can also have the effect of causing pain throughout your body.
During the early stages of diabetes, particularly type 2 you may suffer from digestive issues as a result of the medications that you need to take, although these do tend to disappear after a while as your body will have become used to them.
Finally, diabetes can have an effect on your skin, which in severe cases can lead to a loss of limb. This is due to the circulation of your blood being affected. In the best case it can lead to dry skin or slow healing of cuts, but in the worst case scenario it can lead to an increased amount of bacterial and fungal infections as well as a complete loss of feeling in your feet. Your doctor will want to check your feet at least once a year to check for symptoms of ‘diabetic foot’
If you are suffering from diabetes then it is clear that this is a problem that needs to be managed properly. Whilst you may never be able to have a normal lifestyle, it is a manageable disease. Just try to get the help you need sooner rather than later.