An Introduction to Diabetes
A human body performs many different functions, necessary to lead a healthy life. These functions include processing food, purifying blood, excreting waste materials, producing and balancing hormones, etc. One of the important hormones is insulin, which is produced and used by the body to convert sugar, starches, and other food into energy required for the functioning of daily life. Diabetes is a type of chronic disease that causes the body to stop producing or making use of insulin, making the glucose level go above normal and causing difficulties in the conversion of food into energy (“All about diabetes”).
The real cause of diabetes is not evident but factors of genetics and environment such as obesity and lack of exercise appear to play roles (“all about diabetes”). The pancreas is responsible for producing insulin but when it does not make enough insulin, this leads to a higher level of glucose in the blood and leads to diabetes. Another reason that may lead to the development of the disease is when insulin is not being properly used by the muscular cells, the liver, and fats because of which the glucose level in the blood elevates yet the cells do not receive the required level of energy (“Diagnosis of diabetes”).
Diabetes may be categorized into the following types:
- type 1
- type 2
- gestational diabetes
Type 1 diabetes, is related to diagnosis in children, teenagers, or young adults. In this type of diabetes, the pancreatic cells are destroyed by attacks from the body’s immune system; as a result, they are no longer able to make insulin. This type was formerly called juvenile diabetes (“Diagnosis of diabetes”).
The most common type of diabetes is Type 2. It was formerly known as adult-onset diabetes. This form of diabetes usually starts from a condition in which muscle, liver, and fat cells do not use insulin properly. Initially, the pancreas fulfills the added demand by producing more insulin but over some time, however, the ability to secrete required insulin in response to meals is lost (“Diagnosis of diabetes”).
Gestational diabetes develops in few women during the late stages of pregnancy. A woman who develops this type is prone to the development of type 2 diabetes at later stages of life even though this form, itself, usually goes away after the birth of the baby. Gestational diabetes results from certain hormones found during pregnancy or insulin shortage. (“Diagnosis of diabetes”).
In pre-diabetes, a higher than normal level is found of blood glucose but it is not high enough for a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes (“All about diabetes”).
The symptoms of diabetes are subtle and often seem undisruptive, because of this; the disease may go unnoticed and undiagnosed for quite some time. Some common diabetes symptoms are:
- Frequent urination
- Excessive thirst
- Extreme hunger
- Unusual weight loss
- Increased fatigue
- Blurry vision (“Diabetes Symptoms”)
The most important thing that is considered in diagnosing diabetes is glucose which can be tested by the following diagnostic tests:
- A fasting plasma glucose test is used for the diagnosis of diabetes or pre-diabetes by measuring the blood glucose after 8 hours of fasting (“Tests”).
- An oral glucose tolerance test is the same as a fasting plasma glucose test with the difference that this test is followed by the patient drinking a glucose-containing beverage and again being tested 2 hours later (“Tests”).
- In a random plasma glucose test, the blood glucose is checked without regard to when the last meal was eaten (“Diagnosis of diabetes).
- A glucose challenge test is a screen to diagnose gestational diabetes, followed by an oral glucose tolerance test if the screen is abnormal (“Tests”).
The criteria used to determine glucose levels are:
- Normal blood sugar: 65 -140.
- High blood sugar: 250-350
- Very high blood sugar: above 350 (“What is high blood sugar”)
Diabetics are twice as vulnerable to heart disease as compared to healthy persons. Diabetics without heart diseases still face an increased risk of heart attack and tend to have other risk factors for heart disease including obesity, high blood pressure, and hardening of the arteries. Diabetic adults should have yearly eye exams to ensure the health of their eyes and to protect their vision as they may suffer from the swelling of the retina and blurring of vision to more serious problems. The kidneys may also be affected by high blood sugar levels over some time and result in kidney diseases or even kidney failure. Another risk that diabetics are exposed to is that of foot injuries due to numbness caused by nerve damage and low blood flow to the legs and feet (“Complications of diabetes”).
Control, Care, and Treatment
A change in lifestyle and intake of medications can make diabetes manageable and the patients can live a fulfilling life by keeping the disease under control.
Diabetes can be kept under control by maintaining appropriate blood glucose levels, blood fat levels, and weight. A diet designed by the doctor, exercise, and eating at regular intervals proves helpful in maintaining the desired level of blood glucose (“Cure for Diabetes”). As diabetes may lead to complications over a long period, therefore, caring for the disease is essentially important and therefore it should be constantly kept in check. Daily exercises help to burn up the glucose in the blood which consequently causes the glucose levels to drop. Foot problems are often associated with diabetes therefore daily inspection for any problems or wounds that do not heal is important. Watching what a diabetic eats is important; low carbohydrates, fresh vegetables, and fish or skinless chicken will facilitate in controlling glucose levels. A sufficient amount of sleep is essential as sleep deprivation tends to increase blood glucose levels (“Diabetes care”).
There is no cure for the disease but it is treated through different options that include oral medicines (Diabetes pills), dietary changes, exercise, and insulin. As with most of the medicines, the oral medicines of diabetes may have negative side effects associated with it like nausea, diarrhea, low blood glucose, skin rash or itching, and weight gain (“Treatment Options for Diabetes”).
Complementary and Alternative Therapies
These therapies are those which are not presently considered a part of conventional medicine. Acupuncture (a procedure where needles are inserted into designated points on the skin) is used to relieve neuropathy, the painful nerve damage of diabetes. Biofeedback (helps a person become more aware of and learn to deal with the body’s response to pain.) uses the image to control or cure diabetes Chromium supplementation may improve diabetes control as it is needed to make glucose tolerance factor, which helps insulin improve its action. Ginseng (type of plants that contain glucose-lowering compound) intake can lower glucose levels. A study has shown that higher dietary intakes of magnesium can lower the risk of type 2 diabetes. A recent study shows that when people with diabetes are given vanadium (a compound found in tiny amounts in plants and animals), they build up a modest increase in insulin sensitivity and can decrease their insulin requirements (“Complementary and Alternative Medical Therapies for Diabetes”)
The main cause of diabetes is a high level of glucose in the blood and can be diagnosed using different tests. Once a person, is diagnosed with this disease, it requires proper management through control, care, and treatment because otherwise, it may result in various complications in the long run.
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“Diagnosis of Diabetes”. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. 2005. Web.
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“Diabetes care”. Diabetes symptoms online. Web.
“Tests”. American Association for Clinical Chemistry. 2001-2008. Web.
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“What is High Blood Sugar”. MamasHealth.com. 2000 – 2008. Web.