Diabetes is an incurable condition, which is associated with very high levels of blood sugar in the body. The pancreas is responsible for production of insulin, a hormone that controls the levels of blood sugar in the body. An absence or insufficiency of this hormone gives rise to diabetes.
Diabetes is a chronic condition, which lasts a lifetime. While there is no cure for it, it can be controlled through the introduction of artificial insulin in the body along with lifestyle changes.
Causes of Diabetes
There are several causes and risk factors associated with diabetes. Let us study each cause in detail.
A strong link has been found in the incidence of diabetes within families. A gene is passed on from one generation to the other. These genes increase a person’s predisposition to diabetes. The closer the blood relationship, the higher the risk of developing the disease. Research has shown that if the mother has diabetes, the risk of the child getting diabetes increases by 2-4%. In case of fathers, the risk is even more. If both parents have diabetes, the child is at a much greater risk of developing diabetes.
Due to the slowdown of metabolic processes and poor lifestyles, elderly people are at a higher risk of developing diabetes. The incidence of the disease is much higher in people above the age of 50.
Faulty Eating Habits
One of the biggest culprits of diabetes is a poor diet. Eating insufficient fibre, fruits and vegetables and increasing the intake of processed, starchy and refined foods puts you at a health risk of developing diabetes. Overeating leads to obesity, which in turn slows down the production of insulin in the body leading to a condition, called as insulin resistance.
As earlier stated, being overweight is a risk factor associated with diabetes.
It has now been verified that women who have a waistline of more than 35 inches and men who have a midriff of more than 40 are at higher risk of developing diabetes
Our hectic and fast-paced lifestyles have made it impossible to get in the much needed physical exertion that our body requires. Most corporate honchos do not have the time to exercise. Coupled with bad eating habits, this acts as a recipe of disaster, leading to diabetes.
Certain virulent strains of bacteria can cause an infection in the pancreas and damage it. This can lead to a halt or cessation in the production of insulin.
High Cholesterol and Hypertension
A close link has now been established between high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. Both the conditions can make a person obese, leading to increased insulin resistance in the body. Cholesterol leads to the deposit of plaque in the arteries, elevating the blood pressure of a person. Having unhealthy levels of bad cholesterol anyways means that you have too much of body fat, predisposing you to diabetes.
Symptoms of Diabetes
Increased Thirst and Dehydration
One of the earliest symptoms of diabetes is unusual thirst and dehydration. This happens due to the excess presence of glucose in the body. This pushes the kidneys to work harder in order to get rid of the excess glucose in the form of increased urine output. Due to the large volume of urine excreted, the person feels dehydrated, thirsty and tired.
Sudden, Unexplained Weight Loss
If you have suddenly begun to lose weight despite no changes in your appetite, diabetes is usually suspected. This happens due to the lack of insulin in the body.
Blurred vision is commonly seen in a condition called as diabetic retinopathy. This happens due to the high levels of circulating blood glucose. It damages the retina and causes vision problems. A blurred vision is an inability to see things clearly.
Lethargy and Coma
While diabetes is largely associated with high blood sugar levels, patients are also known to suffer from hypoglycaemia in which the blood sugar levels become dangerously low. This could make a person go into a coma and lose consciousness. A diabetic coma is a medical emergency and should be treated as such.
Due to the excessive excretion of urine, dehydration, weight loss and excess blood sugar in the body, fatigue is a common complaint amongst diabetic patients. The person may feel very tired, fatigued and lethargic.
Types of Diabetes
Diabetes mellitus is of two types.
Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is also called as insulin dependent or juvenile diabetes. This is a rare type of diabetes. It occurs when the pancreas undergo an autoimmune reaction which destroys it. As a result, the pancreas is not able to produce or make insulin at all. A diagnostic test reveals the presence of abnormal antibodies present in the blood stream of a person.
Patients with type 1 diabetes have to rely on artificial insulin for their entire lives. This condition occurs when the body’s immune system starts manufacturing antibodies that destroy its own tissues and organs. These antibodies attack the beta cells of the pancreas, which make insulin, leading to a complete cessation of insulin production.
Why this happens has not been clearly understood. However, faulty genes are said to be responsible. Certain viral infections are also said to be responsible for producing an autoimmune reaction in the body. Only 10% of all patients have type 1 diabetes.
Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is also called as non-insulin dependent diabetes. It is also called as adult onset diabetes. In this, the pancreas produces insulin but in insufficient quantities leading to a condition called as insulin resistance. Insulin resistance means that many of the body’s cells especially fat cells develop resistance to the insulin.Over a period of time, the person may have to take recourse to artificial insulin as the beta cells of the pancreas slowly decline.
At the same time, the liver continues to produce glucose, which eventually compromises the control of glucose in the body. There is a strong genetic component in type 2 diabetes. However, the world is seeing an alarming trend in which young adults are succumbing to the disease due to excess weight, poor eating habits and lack of exercise.
Other diabetic conditions arise due to pregnancy when the hormones present in the body elevate the blood sugar levels. This condition is called as gestational diabetes. Injuries or trauma to the pancreas may also lead to temporary diabetes.