What you need to know about diabetes

Diabetes mellitus, commonly known as diabetes, is a metabolic disease that causes high blood sugar in people of all ages (including children). The hormone insulin moves sugar from the blood into your cells to be stored or used for energy. With diabetes, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t effectively use the insulin it does make. Here’s what you need to know about diabetes.

Types of diabetes

There are three main types of diabetes:

Type 1 diabetes is a genetic condition which occurs when the pancreas stops producing insulin. It usually starts in young people under the age of 30, including very young children and infants. People who have type 1 diabetes must inject insulin to control their illness. Insulin dosages are prescribed by your healthcare provider and should be carefully balanced with food intake and exercise programmes.

Type 2 diabetes is a lifestyle disease caused when the insulin which someone’s pancreas produces, is either not enough or doesn’t work properly.

Type 2 diabetes risk increases with age, but most type 2’s occur in people who are over the age of 40, who live unhealthy lifestyles. Type 2 diabetes may be treated successfully without medication under guidance from your healthcare provider. This might include changing your eating habits, exercise or medication (tablets).

Gestational diabetes is a condition in which your blood sugar levels become high during pregnancy. Unlike other types of diabetes, gestational diabetes usually goes away on its own and soon after delivery, when blood sugar levels return to normal.

Signs and symptoms of diabetes include the following:

Unusual thirst

Frequent urination

Unusual weight loss

Extreme fatigue or lack of energy

Blurred vision

Frequent or recurring infections

Cuts and bruises that are slow to heal, boils and itching skin

Tingling and numbness in the hands or feet

If you experience any of these symptoms, you should visit your healthcare provider. Many people who have type 2 or gestational diabetes may show no symptoms- that’s why it’s known as a silent killer.

Is diabetes serious?

There’s no such thing as ‘mild’ diabetes. Diabetes is always serious. If  left untreated or not well managed, the high levels of blood glucose can slowly damage nerves and blood vessels in the body, resulting in a variety of complications.

The good news is that with careful management, these complications can be delayed and even prevented- but early diagnosis is very important.

Diabetes can be managed and pre-diabetes can be stopped, if caught early and treated with lifestyle changes and medical treatment, if necessary. The earlier it’s diagnosed, the sooner treatment can begin.

Remember, if you or a friend need advice or help, you can contact me here on Ask Choma, send a Facebook message or a Twitter DM, or a WhatsApp Message (071 172 3657).