Diabetes Mellitus is a condition that’s one of the most costly and burdensome chronic diseases of our time – it is a condition that is fast increasing to almost epidemic proportions throughout the World.

Diabetes is a serious disorder of the pancreas. Basically the body is not able to use the glucose (sugar) in the blood as the levels are too high. Glucose is obtained from the digestion of certain foods like bread, potatoes, rice, sugar and other sweet foods, as well as from the liver.

There are two main types of Diabetes known as Type 1 Diabetes and Type 2 Diabetes.

Type 1 Diabetes – this develops when the body is not able to produce any insulin. It is more usual for Type 1 Diabetes to appear before you reach the age of 40. Type 1 Diabetes is normally treated with regular insulin injections and a change in diet. Regular exercise is also recommended.

Type 2 Diabetes – this develops while your body is able make some, but not enough insulin itself, or if the produced insulin doesn’t work properly (called insulin resistance). Type 2 Diabetes is often linked with being overweight, and more often than not appears in those aged over 40. Although in certain people, e.g African-Caribbean and South Asian, Type 2 Diabetes can appear as early as age 25. Recently more children are being diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes.

This type of Diabetes is usually treatable with lifestyle changes, for example losing weight, a healthier diet and also by increasing your physical activity.

Type 2 Diabetes may also require extra treatment in the form of tablets and sometimes insulin to ensure that the body maintains normal blood glucose levels. It is often the case that a Type 2 Diabetes sufferer may well end up needing to take insulin a couple of times a day, but it can often be held at may with diet and tablet medication.

The aim with the treatment of both types of Diabetes is to have blood glucose levels, blood pressure and cholesterol levels as near to average as is possible. As the long term complications of Diabetes can be an increased rate of morbidity and mortality mainly due to failure of various organs like the eyes and kidneys, it is important to recognise and have Diabetes treated as soon as possible. Diabetics are also at a much higher risk of peripheral vascular disease, strokes and coronary artery disease, and they are also at greater risk of developing hypertension (high blood pressure) and obesity.

So what are the Symptoms of Diabetes?
One of the first things you may be aware of is increased thirst, and also extreme tiredness. You will also find you need to pay more frequent visits to the bathroom, especially at night time. Weight loss can also occur, as can general skin itchiness and sometimes blurred vision. You may also notice general weakness and fatigue as well as irritability.

Type 1 Diabetes develops much more quickly than Type 2 Diabetes, usually over a period of weeks. The symptoms therefore are normally much more obvious, and easier to identify.

Type 2 Diabetes develops more slowly and the symptoms are not usually as severe. Often sufferers have not even noticed any symptoms, and it is only through a routine blood test that they are diagnosed as having Diabetes.

What Tests can be done to check for Diabetes?
There are basically two tests, one is a test on your urine, and the other one is a test on your blood. With the urine test some chemicals are added to the urine, and a testing stick is put into the urine. The colour changes on the stick indicate the presence or non-presence of glucose. The most accurate test however, is a blood test and this gives a very good idea of the level of glucose in the blood.

What Parts of my Body Can Be Affected by Diabetes?
Heart – the amount of fat and homocysteine in the blood are increased with Diabetes.

Kidney – due to the higher levels of glucose, the kidneys have to work much harder to retain essential substances and to separate waste products to produce urine. This in turn affects the small blood vessels and their filtering capability. After many years of this extra work, kidney failure can and often does follow.

Blood Vessels – the higher levels of glucose damage the blood vessels, as a result of this many of the diabetic complications occur in blood vessels.

Eyes – the blood vessels of the eyes can be affected by Diabetes. Damage can lead to several eye problems like damage to the retina, cataracts, or even total loss of vision. This is why it is important to have regular eye checks when you are diagnosed as being Diabetic.

Feet – damaged blood vessels can reduce the blood flow to the feet and therefore increase the risk of you developing foot ulcers and infections.

Nerves – the sustained high levels of glucose over a long time damages the nerves, which can reduce sensation in some parts of the body. This can lead to numbness and tingling as well as dizziness and fainting.

How will I know that my Diabetes Treatment is working? You need to learn how to test your own blood glucose levels (usually done with a small self administered jab to a finger, blood dropped onto a strip which is then inserted into a small machine to give a glucose level). There are many testing tools available, ask your doctor which one is best for you. Also get advice on how often you need to test your blood, and at what levels you need to seek advice. Keep a note of your blood glucose levels and show them to your Doctor. A good reading, between meals will be between 70 and 140 mg/dl.

Your doctor will also perform blood tests, and these will show your blood glucose control over the past few months.

Look after your diet and exercise levels, take any medication you are prescribed, and Diabetes need not interfere with the way you live your life too much.

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