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Diabetes - Diagnosis, Symptoms and Treatments


What is Diabetes?

Diabetes mellitus is a group of diseases that affects the body’s use of blood glucose (sugar). Diabetes means that the body has an overabundance of glucose, which leads to health problems. The body will not produce enough insulin, which is a hormone that regulates carbohydrate and fat metabolism and is what removes excess glucose from the blood. There three main types of diabetes and a few lesser-known ones: Type 1, Type 2, gestational diabetes, congenital diabetes, steroid diabetes, and monogenic diabetes.

  • Type 1 diabetes—is caused by the body’s failure to produce insulin
  • Type 2 diabetes—is the result of the body being resistant to insulin, which causes the cells to be unable to use insulin properly.
  • Gestational diabetes—affects women who are pregnant who have not previously suffered from diabetes. During the pregnancy, they will suffer from high glucose levels that could precede Type 2 diabetes.
  • Congenital diabetes—is a genetic defect of insulin secretion
  • Steroid diabetes—is caused by very high doses of gluco-corticoids

Symptoms of Diabetes

Due to the different types of diabetes, the symptoms can vary depending of on how high a person’s blood glucose is. The symptoms of diabetes are:

  • Frequent urination
  • Extreme hunger
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Increased thirst
  • Ketones present in urine
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Mild to high blood pressure
  • Slow-healing sores
  • Frequent infections including gum, skin, vaginal or bladder infections.
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Causes of Diabetes

The cause of diabetes for type 1 patients is that the immune system attacks the insulin producing cells in the pancreas. So instead of glucose being carried in, the cells are built up in the blood stream. In type 2 diabetes, the cells become resistant to the insulin, and the body cannot produce enough to combat the resistance in the same way glucose builds up in the blood stream. With gestational diabetes, the placenta produces hormones that make the body resistant to insulin as in type 2 diabetes. As the placenta enlarges in the second and third trimesters, it produces more excretion of the hormones that resist insulin.

Diagnosis of Diabetes

To diagnose diabetes, a urine test will be used to look for glucose and ketones from the breakdown of fat. This test cannot solely determine if a person has diabetes. A blood test will be used to determine if glucose levels are higher than a set number determined to be problematic. The tests involve are as follow:

  • Fasting Blood Glucose Level—requires the patient to fast overnight and then have their blood sample tested if their blood sugar level is between 100 and 125 mg/dL you will be considered to have pre-diabetes if it’s over this level and two different test then the patient is diagnose with diabetes
  • Hemoglobin A1c test—is a test that monitors patients’ blood glucose levels over the past two to three months. By measuring the percentage attached to hemoglobin
  • Oral glucose tolerance test—this test is used for determining type 2 diabetes. A sample is taken and after two hours if the blood sugar is higher than 200 mg/dL then the patient is diagnose with diabetes.
  • Random (non-fasting) blood glucose level—this is a blood glucose test that is run when the patient has symptoms of diabetes such as thirst, urination and fatigue. If blood sugar is above 200 mg/dL then the patient will be given other test and if those results are the same then the patient will be diagnose with diabetes.

Treatment of Diabetes

The treatment of diabetes is in hopes of combating complications that can result from diabetes. These complications include blindness, kidney failure, heart disease, and amputation of limps. There is no cure for diabetes and thus the treatment aspect of diabetes is controlling a patients’ blood pressure and cholesterol, exercise, meal planning with weight control, testing of blood glucose levels, foot care as diabetes can damage blood vessels, and medication or insulin use to combat diabetes.

For those with type 1 diabetes a pancreas transplant is an option, which if successful would take away the need for insulin therapy. This option is risky; as one must take lifetime immune-suppressing drugs to prevent organ rejection. The medication has side effects that can pose a greater threat then diabetes. For this reason, this option of treatment is usually reserved for those whose diabetes is uncontrollable.

How to prevent and manage Diabetes

The ways to prevent diabetes is by maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and in the case of type 1 diabetes, there is no stopping it. By exercising 30 minutes a day and eating healthy foods low in fat and calories, and by losing any excess weight even if it’s only 5% of ones’ body weight, the loss can help to maintain ones’ health and prevent diabetes.