Diabetes is a disorder caused by insufficient or absent production of the hormone insulin by the pancreas gland or by an increased resistance to the action of insulin by the body’s tissues. In this situation glucose in the bloodstream cannot be absorbed into the cells which require it for energy, nor into the liver and fat cells which require it for energy storage. Glucose therefore accumulates in the bloodstream leading to the cardinal symptoms of diabetes which include polydipsia (excess thirst), polyuria (passing large amounts of urine), weight loss, hunger and fatigue.
Diabetes is a potentially devastating illness that is constantly on the increase. Poorly controlled, it is the leading cause of blindness and amputations and it is a major cause of nervous system damage. Diabetics are four times more likely than others to develop stroke or heart disease. However, there’s much that can be done to alleviate the condition itself and to minimize complications.
There are two main types of diabetes: Type I which is more severe and sudden in onset, usually occurs in younger people and requires insulin to treat it; and Type II which comes on gradually and generally affects people over the age of 40. In the latter type, dietary adjustments, weight reduction and tablets are usually enough to keep the disorder under control.
A genetic predisposition is certainly present in diabetes, particularly in the Type II variety, although in this type, being overweight and enjoying a sugary, fat-loaded diet is usually the critical trigger factor in its development. ‘Latent’ diabetes can be revealed by other factors such as taking diuretic or steroid drugs, pregnancy and pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas gland itself.
For every diabetic who already knows about their condition there is another who remains blissfully unaware that they are developing it. Symptoms may forewarn the person that something is wrong but in Type II diabetes, where the onset is gradual, that person may go for years living with high blood glucose without ever being treated for it. During this time, however, significant damage is being done to many of the cells and tissues of the body including the eyes, the heart, the kidneys and the nervous system. This is why heart attacks, strokes, blindness and kidney failure are all more common among diabetics. Routine and regular screening for glucose in the urine is therefore essential for everyone to detect diabetes early and prevent such long-term complications occurring. A good family doctor will be doing this anyway when any opportunity arises.
If glucose is detected in the urine, blood tests can confirm the presence of diabetes and its severity.
The aim of treatment is to keep blood glucose levels as near to normal as possible, to relieve symptoms and to prevent any long-term complications. The more the person can understand and looks after the disorder themselves, the better the treatment is likely to be. This requires keeping their weight under control, enjoying regular exercise, eating the right foods and balancing their blood sugar by use of medication.
Sarah writes content for Bio Balance a depression treatment centre in Ireland.