As November is American Diabetes Month, this health tip is the perfect opportunity to inform you all on what diabetes is, who it affects, what its symptoms are and how it can be treated. For at least 20 years, diabetes rates in North America have been increasing substantially. In 2005 there were about 20.8 million people with diabetes in the United States alone. According to the American Diabetes Association, there are about 6.2 million people undiagnosed and about 41 million people that would be considered prediabetic.
Do You Or A Loved One Have A Form Of Diabetes? Here’s The Lowdown…
Diabetes mellitus is a disorder of metabolism, most prominently carbohydrate metabolism. It is a disease characterized by persistent hyperglycemia (high glucose blood sugar) and is a metabolic disease that requires medical diagnosis, treatment and lifestyle changes. The World Health Organization recognizes three main forms of diabetes: type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes (or type 3, occurring during pregnancy).
Since the first therapeutic use of insulin 1921, diabetes has been a treatable but chronic condition, and the main risks to health are its characteristic long-term complications. These include cardiovascular disease (doubled risk), chronic renal failure (it is the main cause for dialysis in developed world adults), retinal damage which can lead to blindness. Diabetes is the most significant cause of adult blindness in the non-elderly in the developed world. It also causes nerve damage, erectile dysfunction (impotence) and gangrene with risk of amputation of toes, feet, and even legs.
Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes are at least partly inherited. Type 1 diabetes appears to be triggered by some (mainly viral) infections, or in a less common group, by stress or environmental factors (such as exposure to certain chemicals or drugs). There is a genetic element in individual susceptibility to some of these triggers which has been traced to particular HLA genotypes (i.e. genetic “self” identifiers used by the immune system).
The classical triad of diabetes symptoms is polyuria (frequent urination), polydipsia (increased thirst, and consequent increased fluid intake) and polyphagia (increased appetite). These symptoms may develop quite fast in type 1, particularly in children (weeks or months), but may be subtle or completely absent – as well as developing much more slowly – in type 2. In type 1 there may also be weight loss (despite normal or increased eating), increased appetite, and irreducible fatigue. These symptoms may also manifest in type 2 diabetes in patients whose diabetes is poorly controlled.
Diabetes is a chronic disease, and emphasis is on managing short-term as well as long-term diabetes-related problems. There is an important role for patient education, nutritional support, self glucose monitoring, as well as long-term glycemic control. A scrupulous control is needed to help reduce the risk of long term complications. In addition, given the associated higher risks of cardiovascular disease, lifestyle modifications must be implemented to control blood pressure and cholesterol by exercising more, smoking cessation, and consuming an appropriate diet.