What is Diabetes? Types, Symptoms & Causes
Diabetes is a chronic health condition that occurs when the body does not produce or properly use the hormone insulin. Insulin helps the body turn sugar, starches, and other foods into energy. When there isn’t enough insulin or the body cannot use insulin effectively, sugar builds up in the blood instead of being used for energy. Diabetes can be managed with making healthy lifestyle changes like choosing healthy snack options that have no added sugars, saturated fats, and processed ingredients & are high in fibre, protein, minerals, antioxidants, etc.
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Different Types of Diabetes
There are several different types of diabetes, each with its own distinct causes and characteristics. The main types include Type 1, Type 2 & Gestational Diabetes.
Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is caused by an autoimmune disorder in which the body's immune system attacks and destroys the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. People with type 1 are unable to produce insulin, and therefore must take insulin injections or use an insulin pump to control their blood sugar levels. It typically develops in childhood or adolescence.
Type 2 Diabetes
In type 2 diabetes, the body becomes resistant to insulin and/or the pancreas produces insufficient amounts of insulin. Type 2 is the most common form of diabetes, and it typically develops in adulthood resulting from obesity, being overweight, having a sedentary lifestyle, family history, etc. Making positive lifestyle changes such as eating healthy snacks made from wholegrains between meals can go a long way to control blood sugar levels.
This occurs during pregnancy and is caused by changes in the hormones produced by the placenta. Women who have gestational diabetes have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
Symptoms of may include:
- Increased thirst
- Frequent urination
- Blurred vision
- Slow healing of cuts and bruises
- Tingling or numbness in the hands and feet.
If left untreated, diabetes can lead to serious health complications, such as heart disease, nerve damage, kidney disease, and vision loss.
Risk Factors & Complications
There are several risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes, including obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, a family history of the condition, and advancing age. It can also cause changes in the skin, including dryness, itching, and infections.
In women, there is an increased risk of problems during pregnancy, including miscarriage, preterm delivery, and birth defects. Diabetics have an increased risk of developing gum disease and should pay special attention to oral hygiene.
Diabetes is a leading cause of blindness in adults, so it is important for people with the condition to have regular eye exams. Many people also develop nerve damage, which can cause tingling, numbness, or a burning sensation in the hands and feet. This condition, known as neuropathy, can increase the risk of falls and accidents.
Diabetes is typically diagnosed through a combination of blood tests that measure the levels of glucose (sugar) in the blood. The most common tests used to diagnose include:
- Fasting Plasma Glucose Test (FPG): The FPG test measures the level of glucose in the blood after an individual has fasted (not consumed anything) for at least 8 hours.
- Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT): The OGTT measures the body's ability to process glucose. During the OGTT, an individual is given a glucose solution to drink and blood samples are taken at specific intervals to measure the blood sugar level.
- HbA1c Test: HbA1c test is a blood test that measures the average blood sugar level over the past two to three months
- Random Plasma Glucose Test: A random plasma glucose test checks your blood glucose levels at any random time during the day, regardless of when you last ate.
A healthcare professional may use one or more of these tests to diagnose diabetes, and they may also take into account other factors such as symptoms, medical history and any associated conditions.
People who are at high risk for type 2 diabetes may be able to prevent or delay the onset of the condition by making lifestyle changes, such as eating a healthy diet and getting regular physical activity.
Managing blood sugar levels requires a multifaceted approach that includes lifestyle changes, medications, and ongoing monitoring and care. Some of the key strategies for managing diabetes include:
- Eating a healthy diet: Eating a diet that is rich in whole foods and low in added sugars, saturated fats, and processed foods can help to control blood sugar levels and prevent complications. This is where Keeros can help people with diabetes. Try our diabetic-friendly healthy snacks today and take the first step towards a healthier lifestyle
- Maintaining a healthy weight: Losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight can improve insulin sensitivity and reduce the risk of complications.
- Getting regular physical activity: Engaging in regular physical activity can help to improve insulin sensitivity, lower blood sugar levels, and improve overall health.
- Monitoring blood sugar levels: Monitoring blood sugar levels helps individuals and their healthcare providers to determine how well their diabetes is controlled and make adjustments as needed.
- Taking medications as prescribed: For people with type 1 diabetes, insulin therapy is usually necessary to control blood sugar levels. People with type 2 diabetes may also require medications such as oral hypoglycemic agents (OHAs) or insulin to control blood sugar levels.
- Regular check-ups: It is important to see a healthcare professional regularly, typically at least twice a year, to check for any potential complications, and to adjust treatment plans as needed.
- Monitoring for complications: People with diabetes are at an increased risk for certain complications, such as heart disease, nerve damage, kidney disease, and eye damage, so it is important to monitor for these complications and take steps to prevent them.
- Reducing stress: Stress can affect blood sugar control, so it is important to find ways to manage stress, such as through exercise, yoga, meditation, or counselling.
- Educating oneself: Understanding the disease, its cause and impact on the body is also important and can help to reduce anxiety and fear related to diabetes.
It is also important to work closely with a healthcare professional, such as an endocrinologist or primary care provider, to develop an individualised treatment plan that meets your specific needs. With proper management, individuals with diabetes can often lead healthy, active lives.
Overall, managing diabetes requires a proactive approach that involves a combination of lifestyle changes like switching to healthy snacks which are low in GI, high in protein & fibre, maintaining physical activity, timely medication, and regular monitoring of blood sugar levels. By taking an active role in their own care, diabetics can manage blood sugar levels to prevent or delay the onset of serious health complications and enjoy a higher quality of life.