Diabetes – most people have heard of it, but even fewer fully appreciate or understand it. When it is considered that in the USA alone, approximately 34.2 million people – or just over one in ten people – were diagnosed with diabetes in 2018, perhaps it is a disease worthy of having more than just a cursory understanding.
What is diabetes?
Put simply, diabetes is a disease that causes high blood sugar levels. In the human body, a hormone called insulin is responsible for moving ingested sugar in the bloodstream into cells, where it can either be stored or used as energy.
With diabetes, this insulin system breaks down, and the body is unable to produce enough insulin to move the sugar, or it cannot use the available insulin in the body effectively.
Left untreated, this high blood sugar level can cause damage to vision, kidneys, and other organs, as well as the nervous system.
What age groups can be affected by diabetes?
Diabetes most often develops in adults over the age of 45; however, trends have shown that younger adults, teens, and children are also developing it.
Broadly speaking, the disease is manageable, and those afflicted will be familiar with the need for an ongoing treatment regimen and the attendant acquisition of diabetes supplies such as insulin pens and injectors to artificially control blood sugar levels.
Notably, the onset of diabetes is progressive, and in some cases, it can develop unnoticed over several years.
What causes Type 2 diabetes?
Of those 34 million people afflicted with diabetes, 90-95% have what is known as type 2 diabetes. While family history and genetics can play a part in diabetes development, a major cause of the disease is attributed to an unhealthy lifestyle – being overweight or obese greatly increases the risk of developing diabetes.
The carriage of excess body fat, particularly around the midriff and belly (which is one of the regions fat typically congregates in men), can actually make the body cells resistant to the effect of insulin.
Symptoms of diabetes
Remember that early symptoms of diabetes onset can be extremely difficult to spot, so having a general appreciation of typical symptoms is extremely important. The first indicators of possible diabetes are rather vague and include:
- A frequent thirst
- A general sense of fatigue
Sugar is a primary energy source, so the body’s inability to use it efficiently will result in fatigue, varying to extreme exhaustion.
As blood sugar levels rise, the body draws fluids for other areas like muscles to try to dilute the sugar in the blood, thus causing dehydration and constant thirst.
Further symptoms to look for are:
- Constant hunger
- Blurry vision
- Wounds or infections that are unusually slow to heal
Visiting your doctor
Having an early check is important, and a doctor can screen for diabetes using one or two different blood tests, which will indicate general blood sugar levels.
Once diagnosed, diabetes is treatable and can be managed by an individualized management plan which can include a good diet regimen, exercise routine, and medications to ensure that blood sugar levels remain in a constant healthy range.
Understanding what diabetes is all about and having an awareness of the general symptoms, together with an understanding of lifestyle and diet patterns that can exacerbate the condition, is key to prevention.