Understanding Diabetes

Diabetes is a chronic condition that adversely impacts how glucose is being expended as energy in the body. It occurs when the pancreas can no longer produce adequate insulin and/or the body can no longer effectively utilise insulin. This results in elevated levels of glucose in the blood system which can lead to short and long term complications (1).

What is Insulin ?

Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that allows your body cells to use blood glucose (sugar) for energy. Food is converted into glucose before it is absorbed into our bloodstream. The pancreas then releases insulin to move the glucose from the bloodstream into the body cells for use or storage. People with diabetes are unable to fully use the glucose in their bloodstream due to:

  • Back of insulin in the body
  • Ineffective use of insulin

Types of Diabetes

Type 1 : The pancreas in type 1 diabetes can no longer produce insulin due to damaged pancreatic cells. This usually occurs in childhood and daily insulin injections or insulin pumps are required.  This type of diabetes cannot be prevented by dietary or lifestyle adjustments and makes up for about 5% of overall diabetic cases. (1)

Type 2 : Insulin produced by the pancreas is either not adequate or the body has developed a resistance towards properly utilizing it (Insulin Resistance). It is a chronic disease and usually more prevalent amongst overweight or inactive individuals. Blood sugar levels can be controlled with proper diet plans and physical activities but in certain cases, oral medication and insulin injections need to be administered to help the body properly respond to insulin. (1)​

Gestational Diabetes Mellitus : This happens when pregnant women, who previously show no signs of diabetes,  experience high glucose levels during the course of their pregnancy. The symptoms will usually disappear upon child birth, however, chances of contracting type 2 diabetes for this group in their senior years increases, as such, close monitoring and regular health check-ups are highly advisable. Pregnant mothers must seek specialized obstetric care so as to alleviate any complications that might be passed on to the unborn child.  (1, 2)    

Some Signs and Symptoms of Diabetes (1,2)

  • Excessive thirstiness
  • Constant feeling of fatigue
  • ​Weight loss
  • ​Increased appetite
  • ​Frequent sickness
  • Excessive urination
  • Slow healing of wounds

Some Long Term Complications (2)

  • Stroke
  • Heart diseases such as heart attack
  • ​Eye and kidney related diseases
  • ​Diseases to extremities (Legs) - numbness or even gangrene

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References :

(1) Taylor, W. (2016, November 1). Understanding Diabetes. Retrieved January 1, 2017, from http://www.eatright.org/resource/health/diseases-and-conditions/diabetes/understanding-diabetes

(2) Understanding Diabetes. (2012, November 28). Retrieved January 1, 2017, from http://www.hpb.gov.sg/HOPPortal/health-article/HPB042609

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