What is Diabetes?
A person is considered to be suffering from diabetes (Diabetes mellitus) when his/her blood sugar level remains abnormally high either because the body does not produce insulin or produces only insufficient quantity of it or because the body is unable to make efficient use of the insulin that is produced. If left untreated, the prolonged presence of excessive sugar in the blood can damage eyes, kidneys, nerves, and even the heart. It may also lead to coma and death. See WHO and DRI for further information.
There are three prominent varieties of diabetes that we usually come across. The first two are presently called Type 1 and Type 2, and the third, Gestational diabetes. In all cases the blood sugar level increases above safe level, which is known as hyperglycemia. The opposite of hyperglycemia is hypoglycemia, which is a condition that is caused by sugar depletion in the blood (see the bottom of this page).
Type 1 Diabetes
In Type 1 diabetes, which is an uncommon form, the endocrine gland pancreas either does not produce any insulin at all or produces very little. In rare cases, babies are born without pancreas; but in most cases the insulin-producing pancreatic cells in islets of Langerhans get destroyed later through autoimmune disorder.
While Type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented or cured as of now, its harmful effect on the person can be effectively controlled so that one may lead a normal life. Therefore patients afflicted with Type 1 should take it as a deficiency rather than a disease, and look for ways and means to overcome this deficiency. Daily administration of insulin under expert medical supervision and wise diet regimen are required.
Consult your doctor for medical advice and treatment.
Type 2 Diabetes
In Type 2 diabetes, which is most common, the pancreas is usually active, but the body resists proper utilization of glucose by various tissues of the body; and also resists muscles and liver from storing excess glucose for need-based utilization. About 90% of those who suffer from diabetes have Type 2 diabetes (WHO).
Obesity and insufficient physical exercise are attributed to be two major causes of Type 2 diabetes according to WHO, NDIC and other sources. Unbalanced food consumed in excess of the daily metabolic requirement can cause obesity. Obesity, scant physical exercise and stress/tension are known to induce the body to inhibit normal utilization of blood sugar, causing Type 2 diabetes (multiple sources).
Emotional excitement, too has been found to be an important factor for raising blood sugar in addition to raised blood pressure and pulse rate (see Don P. Morris).
Prevention, control and treatment
Prevention and control are possible to a large extent through adequate physical exercise, balanced food, controlled body weight and reduced stress.
Treatment is usually with oral medication but insulin may also be required at a later stage. Your doctor is your best guide. If you visit your doctor at the early stages of raised sugar levels he or she, who has much experience and genuine concern for your long-term health, will first find out if your symptoms may have been caused by obesity, lack of exercise or stress; and if so, may advise you to change your lifestyle – bring down your obesity level, exercise your body and also get rid of the stress factors. As for stress-induced diabetes, your doctor may advise you to consult an experienced psychologist.
If you have been able to control your blood sugar by strictly following the advice of your doctor to change your lifestyle, and gradually reduce and stop your medication under medical supervision, you are ‘sugar free’ and you may not have to consider yourself as ‘diabetic’ anymore!
The third type, gestational diabetes, affects some pregnant women. Here the blood sugar level usually rises slightly above the normal range. However, this may cause complications during pregnancy or delivery, hence medical support must be sought. Visit NDIC for additional information
While the causes of gestational diabetes are not clearly understood, ‘Women who exercise during pregnancy are less likely to have gestational diabetes, and the exercise also helps to reduce maternal weight gain‘ according to a paper published in BJOG (An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology) on 3 June 2015 (Science Newsline, Medicine).
Those who have raised sugar levels in the blood during pregnancy must seek medical advice from experienced gynaecologists. Since there is a possibility that those experiencing gestational diabetes may also, in future, contract chronic diabetes, life style changes including food and exercises should be considered for addressing this possibility. (Multiple sources including American Diabetes Association, NHS).
Diabetes insipidus is a rare ailment that has nothing to do with diabetes (mellitus) except that both the ailments manifest two common symptoms, namely excessive urination and excessive thirst. (click here for comparison of symptoms). The qualifier ‘insipidus’ is used because the urine of patients is ‘insipid’ as against sweet as in Diabetes mellitus (mellitus = honey sweet). Physicians of the past, who had no modern testing facilities, actually tasted the urine in order to confirm the diagnosis (Dedicated physicians with scientific temper for sure!).
Whereas Diabetes mellitus is caused by the inability of the body to manage the sugar (glucose) released into the blood stream, Diabetes insipidus is caused by the inability of the kidneys to manage the amount of water that goes into the urine. For further information including causes, prevention and treatment, read NH Choices.
The opposite of hyperglycemia is hypoglycemia, which is a condition caused by subnormal blood sugar.
The initial symptoms of hypoglycemia include hunger, palpitation, sweating, trembling, weakness, anxiety and confusion. If this condition is not reversed soon, it may deteriorate resulting in numbness of the mouth and tongue, fainting and even coma. Prolonged fainting or comatose condition may also result in death in some cases. Some people may not feel the unpleasant symptoms, nevertheless, suffer the consequences. The consequences can be grave if such people happen to get hypoglycemia when they are asleep. Therefore all those who are prone to experience low blood sugar levels must keep in close touch with your doctor and head his/her advice.
Hypoglycemia occurs when the level of inulin in the bloodstream exceeds the current body requirement to manage the glucose level in the body. There are two major groups of causes for this condition.
1. Diabetes-related causes
Hypoglycemia may occur either because of an overdose of diabetes medication (insulin or certain tablets) or because of starvation or insufficient intake of food; or additional physical exercise without proportionate increase in food intake when the diabetes medication is still active. Certain combination injections that are related to diabetes medication or otherwise, too, can cause hypoglycemia.
2. Nondiabetes-related causes
The causes for nondiabetes-related hypoglycemia are varied and include the following: Kidney, liver or pancreatic diseases, malfunctioning of certain endocrine glands, pathological conditions such as a tumour that may induce excessive production of insulin, problems with metabolism, excessive consumption of alcohol and certain medications such as quinine (Sources: numerous).
What you should do?
Consult your doctor. Please note that the information here is only for your personal knowledge. When it comes to treatment for this or any other ailment dealt with in this website, do make it a point to consult your doctor and take his/her advice.
The following websites will give you excellent information on symptoms, causes and treatment of hypoglycemia.
A. For mostly diabetes-related hypoglycemia
- American Diabetes Association
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
B. For non-diabetes-related hypoglycemia
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