Diabetes is a collective term for conditions that inhibit your body from using sugar or glucose appropriately. Blood sugar or glucose is a vital source of energy for the cells. It may be due to deficient insulin levels or insulin not functioning correctly.
The food you eat breaks down to energy or glucose. Then, this is transferred to the cells by the hormone insulin. The insulin dysfunction causes the accumulation of sugar or glucose in your body. It results in diabetes and can cause other health disorders associated with diabetes. It includes cardiac diseases, dysfunctioning of kidneys, delayed wound healing and much more.
Types of Diabetes
There are two major types of diabetes – type 1 and type 2, the latter being far more common. High blood sugar levels characterise both types. However, there is a difference in their causes and, thus, their treatments too.
Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition also known as juvenile diabetes. That means your body mistakes and destroys the other body cells for foreign bodies. For example, in Type 1 Diabetes, the body cells destroy beta cells of the pancreas, which are responsible for producing insulin. Type 1 mainly develops in childhood and adolescence.
Type 2 Diabetes
This is a lifelong disease and is the most prevalent type of diabetes. It prevents your body from using insulin efficiently. It occurs due to specific reasons. For example, your body cannot use insulin, or pancreatic cells do not produce enough insulin. It may also be a combination of the two causes.
Type 2 develops in middle-aged or elderly individuals, aka adult-onset diabetes. However, it may affect children due to childhood obesity as well.
Why is Diabetes a Cause of Concern?
The issue of diabetes is spiralling out of control as the number of diabetic patients continues to grow at an alarming rate globally. It affects your overall health and quality of life. According to a study, diabetes increases the incidence of various disorders. It may be cardiac diseases, kidney disorders, skin diseases and likewise. If you have diabetes, you’re more likely to have heart disease or stroke.
It also leads to various complications such as glaucoma, retinopathy, neuropathy, etc. Retinopathy and glaucoma may also result in blindness in later stages. Neuropathy damages nerves and results in loss of sensation or numbness.
Symptoms of Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes
Symptoms of type 1 diabetes appear within a matter of weeks. On the other hand, signs of type 2 diabetes often develop slowly. They can be mild or absent such that the patient might not even find out about the condition for the first few years. Symptoms of type 1 and type 2 diabetes include:
- Increased thirst and hunger
- Increase in frequency of urination
- Fatigue or weakness
- Blurred vision
- Feeling of numbness or tingling in the feet or hands
- Delay in the healing of cuts and sores
- Unexplained weight loss
- Itching and infections in the genital area
- Frequent skin infections
- Persistent oral diseases like gum bleeding, inflammation in mouth tissues
Diabetes: The Primary Causes
In type 1 diabetes, the person does not produce any insulin. However, this is because the autoimmune response destroys the insulin-producing beta cells, which mistakes them as foreign invaders. Furthermore, this results in a deficiency of insulin. As a result, glucose does not reach cells causing increased glucose levels in the blood.
Research is still going on to find out what causes such autoimmune responses or the factors that trigger the onset of this condition. Type 1 diabetes may occur at any age. However, it may be common during childhood or adolescence.
In type 2 diabetes, the function of insulin is to transport glucose to the cells to produce energy. In the case of diabetes, the insulin either gets insensitive, the production is reduced by both, or both.
Research suggests that Type 2 happens due to lifestyle and genetic factors. Lifestyle factors include lack of exercise, unhealthy diet, obesity, smoking, excessive consumption of alcohol, etc.
Who is at Risk?
Type 1 diabetes isn’t affected by habits or body weight. A person can be more prone to type 1 diabetes based on the following factors:
- Family History: If your parents or sibling has a history of diabetes
- Age: More prevalent in children and adolescents,
- Genetic Factors: The presence of certain genes increases the susceptibility to this condition
- Autoantibodies: It indicates the presence of cells that damage immune system cells.
Type 2 diabetes is affected by various factors, which include:
- Family History: If a person’s parent or a sibling is suffering from it
- Age: It is more prevalent in adults over the age of 40. However, nowadays, children and adolescents are also being diagnosed with it,
- Ethnic Factors: Blacks, Hispanics, American Indians, or Alaska Natives are more prone to this condition,
- Sedentary Lifestyle: Lack of physical activity or regular exercise or workout
- History of Gestational Diabetes is the fluctuation in glucose levels developed during pregnancy. It may be due to the imbalance in hormonal factors. However, it subsides post-childbirth.
- Obesity: People with obesity as they are likely to develop insulin resistance. Also, the distribution of fat plays a role because a high proportion of belly fat is often linked to type 2 diabetes,
- Thyroid Diseases may result in an imbalance of synthesis of insulin.
The diabetes diagnosis can be basis your symptoms and medical history. In addition, this is correlated with the investigation reports to rule out or confirm the diagnosis. The investigation includes:
Glycated Haemoglobin(A1C Test)
It does not require fasting. The A1C test checks the average blood sugar level over the past three months. Results can be understood as follows:
- Below 5.7% is normal
- Between 5.7 and 6.4% indicates prediabetes
- 6.5% or higher suggests diabetes
Fasting Blood Sugar Test
It measures your blood sugar after not eating anything for about 8 hours. So, for example, one does it in the morning after overnight fasting.
- 99 mg/dL or lower is normal
- 100 to 125 mg/dL indicates prediabetes
- 126 mg/dL or higher indicates diabetes
Glucose Tolerance Test
It measures your blood sugar before and after drinking a liquid with glucose. First, fasting blood sugar levels will be checked. Then you’ll be required to drink the liquid, and your blood sugar level check should happen every consecutive hour for 3 hours.
- At 2 hours, a blood sugar level of 140 mg/dL or lower is normal
- 140 to 199 mg/dL indicates prediabetes
- 200 mg/dL or higher indicates diabetes
Random Blood Sugar Test
It measures your current blood sugar level. You can do it anytime without the need for fasting.
- 200 mg/dL or higher indicates diabetes
Once the test identifies that a person has diabetes, the doctor will perform additional tests to check whether it is type 1 or 2. For example, the doctor may do a blood test to check for autoantibodies, the presence of which indicates type 1 diabetes. He may also do a urine test to check for ketones. The liver chemically synthesises ketones during deficiency of insulin. Therefore, its presence suggests type 1 diabetes.
Type 1 Diabetes
A person with type 1 diabetes needs to take insulin regularly as the body no longer synthesises this hormone. You can take it using an insulin syringe, pen, pump or inhaler. Your doctor will guide you regarding the required dosage of insulin for you. It depends on your lifestyle, what you eat, and your blood sugar levels. Moreover, it is necessary to regularly monitor your blood glucose levels as they can fluctuate quickly. Again, your doctor will guide you regarding how often you should check your blood glucose level.
Type 2 Diabetes
A doctor may prescribe insulin, injectable medications, or oral medications for regulating blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetes. Depending on each patient’s blood sugar level, lifestyle, and other factors, a doctor may prescribe one or a combination of medicines. One of the commonly used medicines is metformin, which lowers the liver’s glucose production and helps in better utilisation of insulin. Along with taking prescribed medicines, eating healthily and staying active is essential. It is also ideal for managing stress and getting enough sleep.
People with type 2 diabetes also need to regularly measure their blood sugar levels. Proper monitoring and regulation of blood sugar levels help to minimise diabetes-related complications. It is ideal also to keep blood pressure and cholesterol in check.
There isn’t a way to prevent type 1 diabetes. However, research shows that you can mitigate the risk of type 2 diabetes through dietary and lifestyle changes. The following can help prevent type 2 diabetes –
It is ideal to follow a well balanced and nutritious diet. It includes fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, low-fat dairy and whole grains food products. In addition, you must include tree nuts foods with healthy and unsaturated fatty acids. They are rich in antioxidants. They are compounds that prevent radical cell injury resulting in diabetes. Moreover, you should restrict junk and unhealthy foods which induce obesity.
A study states physical activity makes your body sensitive to insulin. As a result, it improves glucose absorption in the cells, thereby lowering blood glucose levels thus managing diabetes. It also aids in weight loss and controlling blood cholesterol.
Maintain Your Body Weight
Excess fat, especially in the body’s midsection, leads to insulin resistance that initiates diabetes. Moreover, body weight and obesity result in fat accumulation in blood vessels. Therefore, this causes narrowing of blood vessels, triggering blood pressure. It also causes inflammation, a higher risk of diabetes and heart problems. Thus, losing excess weight lowers the risk of developing this condition significantly.
A study states that smoking results in a higher risk of type 2 diabetes. Also, heavier smoking leads to a higher risk of diabetes. However, this is because cigarettes contain nicotine, limiting the effectiveness of insulin. Thus it affects the regulation and management of glucose levels. Additionally, smokers need more insulin than non-smokers to regulate blood sugar levels.
The Bottom Line
Diabetes mellitus is commonly known as diabetes, a chronic metabolic disorder that increases sugar levels in blood levels in the blood. It occurs when the body cannot process glucose into energy as it should.
Type 1 and type 2 diabetes are different conditions with similar symptoms but different causes. Therefore, they have different risk factors and treatments. For example, type 1 diabetes results due to uncontrollable factors. In contrast, type 2 diabetes, which constitutes over 90% of diabetes cases, is caused due to controllable factors. You can attribute it to today’s sedentary lifestyles, poor habits, overconsumption of unhealthy food, excessively long hours of staying glued to the screen etc. These habits also lead to many other health problems. Therefore, we need to understand its harmful effects and adopt healthy habits to create a balanced lifestyle. We cannot cure type 1 and type 2 diabetes, but they can be managed and controlled to minimise their impact on life.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q: How does a person get type 1 diabetes?
A: Type 1 diabetes is a chronic condition that usually occurs in early years of life like child or teenage. It happens when the body’s immune system destroys insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. Studies are still going on to discover what causes such autoimmune responses. Although certain genes make a person more susceptible to type 1 diabetes, it manifests itself only on being exposed to some external factor.
Q: Is type 1 diabetes curable?
A: The research done has not produced a cure for it. However, it can be managed and controlled. Insulin has to be administered to the patient daily in some form or the other.
Q: Is type 1 diabetes serious?
A: Yes, it is a severe chronic condition in which our body cannot produce insulin. Insulin plays an essential role in glucose absorption, and its absence results in high blood glucose levels. If neglected, this condition can severely damage the heart, kidneys, eyes and feet. It can reduce life expectancy and can also be life-threatening.
Q: Is type 1 and 2 diabetes genetic?
A: Presence of specific genes makes a person more prone to getting type 1 diabetes. However, the condition manifests only on being exposed to some environmental factors. Scientists are still trying to find out more about these factors.
Type 2 diabetes results from factors, and genes alone cannot be responsible for it. Although, a person’s risk of getting diabetes increases if their parent or sibling suffers from this condition.
Q: Are type 1 and type 2 diabetes treated differently?
A: Yes, type 1 and type 2 diabetes have different treatments. Type 1 diabetes requires regular insulin administration through an insulin syringe, pen or pump etc. In type 2 diabetes, a doctor may prescribe insulin, oral medications or syringe medications depending on each case.
Q: Does type 1 or 2 diabetes require insulin?
A: Type 1 diabetes patients have to take insulin every day as their bodies do not produce insulin. For type 2 diabetes, your doctor will determine whether you need insulin or not. It depends on how much insulin your body produces, blood glucose level, etc.
Q: Which is worse, type 1 and 2 diabetes?
A: Type 1 diabetes is worse as it happens due to uncontrollable factors, and you can do very little to prevent it. Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, is caused mainly due to lifestyle and dietary habits, and you can reduce the risk. Type 2 diabetes is also milder than type 1, although both can lead to serious complications.