Diabetes: Symptoms, Complications, Means of Prevention and Treatment
Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs either when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin (A hormone that regulates blood sugar), or when the body cannot effectively use insulin. Hyperglycemia or high blood sugar is a common effect of uncontrolled diabetes and over time leads to serious damage to many body organs, especially the nerves and blood vessels. Early diagnosis can be accomplished through relatively inexpensive blood testing.
- Type 1 Diabetes:
It usually results from deficient insulin production and is treated with daily administration of insulin. The exact cause of type 1 diabetes is unknown and it is not preventable with current knowledge.
The main symptoms of type 1 diabetes include excessive urination, thirst, constant feeling of hunger, weight loss, vision changes and fatigue. These symptoms may appear suddenly.
- Type 2 Diabetes:
It is caused by the body's ineffective use of insulin. It comprises 90% of people with diabetes worldwide. It often results from excessive weight and lack of physical activity.
Symptoms of this type may be similar to those of type 1 diabetes, but are often less marked. Therefore, the disease may be diagnosed several years after onset, once complications have already arisen.
- Gestational Diabetes:
It is the hyperglycemia that occurs or shows up during pregnancy. Its symptoms are often similar to those of type 1 and 2 diabetes. In most cases, it is first diagnosed through prenatal screening, rather than reported symptoms.
- Over time, diabetes can affect the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys and nerves. It may increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases and stroke. Such symptoms cause the death of 50% of people with diabetes.
- Diabetes is a leading cause of renal failure, which in turn causes the death of 10-20% of diabetics.
- Neuropathy in the feet, as a result of poor blood flow, increases the chance of foot ulceration and eventually leads to limb amputation.
- Diabetic retinopathy is a major cause of blindness and it occurs as a result of long-term accumulation of damage to the small blood vessels in the retina. After living with diabetes for 15 years, around 2% of diabetics go blind, while about 10% suffer from severe visual impairment.
- Diabetic neuropathy is a nerve damage caused by diabetes, and it affects around 50% of diabetics. In spite of the various problems that may occur as a result of the diabetic neuropathy, the common symptoms are tingling, pain, numbness or weakness in the feet or hands.
- Diabetics are twice more vulnerable to the risk of death than non-diabetics.
Simple lifestyle measures have been shown to be effective in preventing or delaying the onset of diabetes, as follows:
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Practicing moderate-intensity exercise for at least 30 minutes on most days
- Following a healthy diet containing 3-5 meals of fruits and vegetables every day, and reducing the intake of sugar and saturated fats
- Avoiding tobacco use as it increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases
Treatment of diabetes involves lowering blood glucose and the levels of other risk factors that damage to blood vessels, as well as quitting smoking to avoid complications.
Other cost-saving interventions include preventive or temporary treatment of diabetes as follows:
- Moderate blood glucose control. People with type 1 diabetes require insulin; people with type 2 diabetes can be treated with oral medication, but may also require insulin
- Monitoring level of blood pressure
- Foot care
- Undergoing screening for diabetic retinopathy which causes blindness
- Blood lipid control (to regulate cholesterol levels)
- Screening for early signs of diabetes-related kidney disease
These measures should be supported by a healthy diet, regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding tobacco use.