What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs either when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces.  Insulin is a natural hormone made by the pancreas that controls the level of the glucose in the blood.

body complications

 

Understanding your body and diabetes:

Energy is vital for life; your body needs it to function.  Your brain needs glucose to think, your nerves need fuel to fire and your muscles need energy to move.  Mostly you make this energy from glucose you get as your body breaks down food.  Your body has a carefully regulated system in place to manage this whole process because it’s so important for the life and functioning of your cells.

The process of getting energy from food:

Food, for example a piece of toast, is eaten and through digestion is broken down into glucose, which then enters the blood stream.  As this happens “blood sugar” levels rise, which activates a little chemical “messenger” or hormone called insulin.   Insulin’s role in your body is to move glucose out of the blood and into cells where it can be made into energy. The glucose then moves into the relevant cells where it is needed, and blood glucose levels return to normal.  Essentially insulin controls your “blood sugar” levels.

What happens when things go wrong?

When you have diabetes, your body is unable to regulate your blood sugar effectively.  This happens because either your body is not producing enough insulin or sometimes cells in your body are not responding to insulin.  As a consequence the levels of glucose become higher than is healthy.  Unfortunately this is quite serious for your body, there can be both long term and short term effects.  The high levels can put a strain on your major organs and your cells are starved of vital fuel as the pathway to produce energy is affected.

This is why “blood sugar” and diabetes management is so important.

Symptoms of diabetes explained:

If you have high blood sugar you may experience the classical symptoms of excessive thirst and increased frequency of urination as the body tries to “flush out” excess glucose.  You may experience low energy and increased hunger as the body attempts to get more fuel for cells.  Some people experience numbness and tingling in their hands and feet. Because of the disruption to this major system in your body sometimes complications can develop such as poor circulation, blurred vision or blindness, cuts and bruises that won’t heal and sometimes something known as a diabetic coma.  There are a range of other complications both acute (immediate) and chronic (ongoing) which can have lasting damage to the body such as kidneys, eyes and the heart.

These are risks but not guarranteed outcomes, so the good news is as you manage your diabetes you dramatically improve your chances of a healthy body and living a normal life.

It is important if you have diabetes therefore to be proactive and vigilant with your management approach, adequate and early intervention can make all the difference.  It is possible to live a normal and healthy life with diabetes and it is even possible with the right approach to recover to a point that you are symptomless and as if you do not have diabetes (in cases of Type II diabetes).  This involves adopting healthy lifestyle approaches and paying attention to blood pressure control, maintaining a healthy body weight, eating a healthy diet and giving up smoking if you are a smoker.

The three most common types of Diabetes are:

  • Type 1 diabetes: also referred to as insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus or juvenile diabetes.  With this type of diabetes the body doesn’t produce insulin.
  • Type 2 diabetes: also referred to as insulin-resistant diabetes or late onset diabetes.  This is a condition in which cells fail to use or be properly receptive to insulin; this is sometimes accompanied with an absolute insulin deficiency.
  • Gestational diabetes: is a form of diabetes that develops during pregnancy.  Women who have never had diabetes before experience a high blood glucose level during pregnancy.  This may precede development of type 2 Diabetes.

There are also other less commonly know forms of diabetes, these include congenital diabetes, which is due to genetic defects of insulin secretion, cystic fibrosis-related diabetes, steroid diabetes induced by high doses of glucocorticoids, and several forms of monogenic diabetes.

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