Diabetes Mellitus: Causes, Treatment and Prevention

Introduction

Even as most governments embark on a total fight towards HIV and AIDS, the alarming rate of diabetic cases is worrying and requires a serious check. In fact it is ranked the 7th killer disease in the U.S (Wolf 503). Diabetes is derived from a Greek word ‘diabanein’ which means to siphon. This siphoning phenomenon is characteristic of people suffering from diabetes. The disorder is metabolic in nature. Failure by the body to regulate blood sugar levels is the cause of the disorder (Godley & Castell 270). The blood is thus ‘overloaded’ with glucose.

Types of Diabetes

It should be noted that diabetes is not contagious as other diseases are. However, people who have relatives that are diabetic are at a higher risk of genetically acquiring the disorder (Godley & Castell 267). People who are pre-diabetic have a higher risk of acquiring diabetes Type II. The major types of diabetes are; Type I (Diabetes Mellitus), Type 2 diabetes) and gestational bacteria.

Type I diabetes

This disorder is characterized by the immune system fighting part of the body. The immune system attacks insulin beta cells and are destroyed resulting in little or no production of insulin. It accounts for about 5-10% of the total diabetic cases in the U.S. Presently no studies clearly indicate the actual cause of it. According to Godley and Castell (268), it mostly affects children and the youth.

Type II diabetes

This is the most common type with a range of 90-95% of reported diabetic cases. The disorder is prevalent among the youth and adolescents. The body in this case produces insulin which the body fails to utilize effectively. Being overweight poses a great risk of acquiring the disorder. A recent study indicates that indeed 80% of people suffering from the disorder were overweight (Godley & Castell 269).

Gestational Diabetes

This is a pregnancy-related condition in which pregnancy hormones cause a shortage of insulin. It is a risk factor for developing Type II diabetes. The disorder disappears after the baby is born. Statistics indicate that 3-8% pregnant women in the U.S develop the condition (Hu 431).

Methods of Diagnosis

Several methods are used to diagnose the presence of diabetes in the body. However, the fasting blood glucose test done in the morning is the best in children and non-pregnant adults (Hu, 434). Other tests done repeatedly may be useful in diagnosis. Fasting blood glucose test, as the name suggests involves sleeping without food and blood drawn for testing in the morning. 126 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl) or more of glucose level is a significant indicator of the presence of the disorder.

Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT)-This method involves the monitoring of glucose level in the blood and urine. A person is usually given a highly concentrated sugar solution and the glucose levels monitored thereafter (Hu, 441). A blood glucose level of 200mg/dl after consuming 75 g/l sugar solution indicates the presence of the disorder. The gestational diabetes is usually diagnosed by use of this test.

Random Test-This can normally be done at any time in the course of the day. A blood glucose level of 200mg/dl accompanied by symptoms of diabetes is enough proof of the disorder. The other method is the glycohemoglobin test (Wolf 504). This is a test that shows a comparative set of blood sugar levels for a given period.

Symptoms and Complications

It should be noted that whereas the symptoms of Type 1 diabetes are obvious, those of Type 2 are not easily identified. Most people suffering from Type 2 come to know of their suffering once they are treated for heart disease complications, stroke, kidney problems or blood vessel disease. The warning symptoms of both types are discussed below:

Type I

This type is characterized by a fast development of symptoms. The commonest symptoms include increased thirst, frequent urination, constant extreme hunger, unexplained weight loss, blurred vision, extreme fatigue, nausea, irritability and vomiting. If untreated, diabetic coma called diabetic ketoacidosis may result leading to death (Wolf 507).

Type II

It is characterized by a gradual development of symptoms. It is also important to learn that some people show no symptoms of the disorder. Type I symptoms may also manifest themselves here. Other symptoms to note are; slow healing of wounds or sores, cramping, unexplained weight gain, numbness, drowsiness, frequent infections, dry and itchy skin. Gestational diabetes among women has no clear symptoms and not easily diagnosable (Wolf 507).

Diabetes carries with it an array of long term complications namely; blindness, heart and blood vessel disease, amputations, damage of the nerves, stroke and kidney failure. Pregnancy complications may also be present causing birth defects. The number of deaths in 2006 was a record high and diabetes was considered the 7th killer disease. According to (Hu 437), 68% of dead people aged 65 years or older had died of diabetes-related complications. Economic implications are also not to be underestimated because the government has really invested a lot to counter the disorder. In 2007 alone, direct medical costs amounted to $116 billion while indirect costs were $58 billion (Hu 440).

Treatment of the Disorder

The discovery of insulin is considered a major medical breakthrough since before its discovery people were left to die for lack of glucose regulatory measures. Close monitoring of blood sugar level through the diagnostic tests is vital. Living an active life, healthy eating and taking insulin are some of the basic treatment therapies for Type I diabetes and can reduce long-term complications (Wolf 508). Some pills, insulin and other injectable medicine may be prescribed from time to time by a doctor. The treatment of Type I diabetes may be achieved by injection of different types of insulin based on onset time and period it remains in the blood (Godley & Castell 271). They are: Rapid or Regular Activity, Semilente, Intermediate-Acting and Long-Acting. According to Wolf, the treatment of Type II diabetes is achieved by use of the following;

  • Sulfonylureas -they stimulate the pancreas to release more insulin.
  • Biguanides –they keep the liver from releasing excess glucose.
  • Alpha-glucoside inhibitors -they slow the digestion of some carbohydrates.
  • Thiazolidinediones-they regulate glucose levels by controlling muscle activity

Prevention

  • Exercise. Vigorous exercises done frequently probably twice a week ensures that the blood sugar is reduced.
  • Losing weight. It is factual that 90% of diabetics are overweight. A study conducted in Harvard indicated that those who doubled their weight in the mid ages increased chances of being diabetic in their old ages (Hu 435). Loss of weight through living an active life is vital.
  • Diet. A low calorie and low saturated fat diet is good at keeping diabetes at bay. High fiber foods are also recommended.
  • Stop smoking. People who are diabetic are advised to avoid smoking as a means of preventing heart diseases that might ensue.
  • Use alcohol in moderation. It is usually important to stick to an alcohol dose of two bottles per day for men and one bottle per day for women (Hu 436). First choice should be given to drinks that are low in alcohol and sugar. Dry wines and light beers would suffice.

Directions for Future Research

Researchers are tirelessly looking for the cause(s) of diabetes and possible ways to manage, mitigate, prevent, or treat the disorder. The search for genes that may be involved in Type 1 or Type II diabetes is on (Wolf 509). Some of the studies already underway and expected to yield tremendous results include; Diabetes Prevention Trial–Type 1 (DPT–1), The Trial to Reduce IDDM in the Genetically at Risk (TRIGR), and Islet Transplantation for Type 1 diabetes. Studies in Type II diabetes include; Type 2 Diabetes in Children and Teens, Preventing and Treating CVD in People with Type 2 Diabetes (Hu 442). Some organizations and networks are in place to handle some of these research findings. They include; The Environmental Determinants of Diabetes in the Young (TEDDY) Consortium, Type 1 Diabetes Genetics Consortium (T1DGC), Type 1 Diabetes Trial Net and The Immune Tolerance Network(TITN).

Works cited

Godley, Andrew & Castell, Christopher. Incidence of Type I (Diabetes Mellitus) in America. SAGE, 2000: Pp. 267-271.

Hu, Frank. Diet and Lifestyle in Prevention and Management of Type II Diabetes. Mac-Graw Hill Plc. 2003: Pp. 429-443.

Wolf, Michael. Diabetes Mellitus: The Comprehensive Pharmacology. Cengage Learning, 2008: Pp. 503-509.

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