Diabetes or high blood sugar is a condition found amongst people quite commonly nowadays. The number of diabetics now has increased to a great extent, in comparison to the number about 40 to 45 year ago. This sudden rise in the diabetic population should raises an alarm and compel us to ask what is diabetes, how is it caused, and how should one live with it? Let’s answer some frequently asked questions about diabetes.
Diabetes or DM, is a metabolic disorder that impairs glucose utilization in the body partially or completely. It is characterized by raised glucose levels in blood.
We all know that food is broken down into glucose to provide energy for our various bodily functions and activities. However, when there is an excess of glucose in the blood stream than is needed and for a prolonged time period, it may be a cause to worry.
The Blood stream has glucose running in it. It requires insulin to store the extra glucose and hence maintain normal blood glucose levels. Thus, there are three scenarios why the blood sugar levels may increase
► The pancreas is unable to produce an adequate amount of insulin, therefore, leading to high blood glucose level, this leads to Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus or IDDM.
► Insulin is adequately produced by the pancreas but its action is impaired i.e. despite ample insulin being available it is not being able to function properly. This leads to Non-Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus or NIDDM.
► A woman who was never diabetic, suddenly has high blood glucose levels during pregnancy, implying that DM has been caused due to her pregnancy, leading to Gestational DM
So, how do we look out for DM? Which are the indicators that we need to look out for toget our glucose levels checked?
► The most common symptom of DM is frequent urination i.e. Polyuria. This happens because the urine volume is increased in DM.
► The urgent need to wake up and pass urine at night i.e. Nocturia.
► Increased thirst which is due to the body loosing great levels of water during urination i.e. Polydipsea.
► Since high levels of glucose are secreted in the urine, the patient feels perpetually hungry, since the body feels starved of glucose.
► A diabetic patient may feel extremely dehydrated, partly because of loss of water in urine and partly because of the increased glucose levels in the blood stream, leading to water moving out from the cells (osmosis).
► Fatigue & weight loss- since glucose is not properly utilized by the body, the patient may feel fatigued. It could lead to loss of body tissue(to provide for insufficient glucose utilization by the body). This along with excessive water loss, also leads to weight loss.
► Other possible symptoms are blurred vision, skin infections like itchy or irritated skin, feeling constantly weak and decreased healing capacity, especially the healing of any wounds on the legs.
Another important question that arises here is how does one develop DM? i.e. what factors trigger this condition in normal individuals? There are several reason, but some of the common ones could be:
► Genetic DM is a condition that is passed down in ones genes. Individuals whose parents are diabetic have a 50% chance of being diabetics themselves.
► Certain infections can trigger the condition of DM by having a negative effect on the hormones which control insulin production or action.Stress- stressing emotionally, major physical injury, and surgery often pave way for the first few symptoms of DM. Stress causes hormones to be overactive, which can in turn disrupt the normal secretion & working of insulin or simply raise blood glucose levels.
► Lifestyle- this is a major cause of DM nowadays, obesity playing the pivotal role, with the condition being worsened by physical inactivity and increased stress levels.
► Abdominal fat raises the chances of having DM when compared to being fat elsewhere. This is because of insulin insensitivity which makes people more prone to DM than other obese individuals.
Author’s Note: Now that we have a fair idea about DM, it will be a lot easier to deal with changes in the diet due to DM. Stay tuned in for the next article to know why diet plays a pivotal role in DM management.