What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic disease characterized by excessively high blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia). Sugar, or glucose, comes from food and is essential for the proper functioning of the body.
In order to be used as an energy source, glucose needs to be metabolized with the help of a hormone produced by the pancreas, insulin. When the body does not produce or not enough insulin, there is an accumulation of glucose in the blood: this is called diabetes.
The buildup of glucose in the blood, or hyperglycemia, can lead to several long-term problems, such as strokes, heart disease, kidney failure, blurred vision, and wound healing problems.
What are the different types of diabetes?
Type 1 and 2 diabetes
There are several types of diabetes. The 2 main types of diabetes are:
“Type 1” diabetes, is defined by the absence of insulin secretion by the pancreas.
“Type 2” diabetes, the most common (almost 90% of cases), develops gradually over many years and is due to poor use of insulin by the body.
Pregnancy can cause blood sugar levels to rise in women who do not have diabetes. This is called gestational diabetes. Pregnant women who develop this disease during pregnancy need monitoring as well as treatment. Once the pregnancy is over, diabetes also disappears.
During pregnancy, a doctor or a midwife will prescribe a screening for gestational diabetes.
It is a type of diabetes caused by a lack of antidiuretic hormone secretion, which causes the kidneys to not normally absorb the water they filter. This causes a significant increase in the amount of urine (8-10 liters per day) and constant thirst.
What is the cause of diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes occurs, in most cases, as a result of an autoimmune reaction. During this reaction, the immune system cells of the body of the diabetic patient attack and destroy the pancreatic cells which produce insulin. The pancreas can no longer meet the insulin needs. This type of diabetes has a strong hereditary component. It is, therefore, more likely to have it if a close family member already has it.
Type 2 diabetes is associated with a sedentary lifestyle, with little or no physical activity, an unbalanced diet, and abdominal overweight or obesity. The genetic component is also present but it is not enough to develop the disease.
What are the symptoms of diabetes?
The first symptoms of diabetes can be sudden in the case of type 1 diabetes or appear gradually in the case of type 2 diabetes.
Symptoms of type 1 diabetes
Symptoms of type 1 diabetes are usually brutal and hardly go unnoticed. These are for example:
- a frequent need to urinate and abundant urine (polyuria);
- increased thirst (polydipsia);
- excessive appetite which is accompanied by weight loss;
- the onset of a vision disorder;
- of significant fatigue.
Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes
In the context of type 2 diabetes, the diagnosis is often made by chance, because this type of diabetes evolves silently over several years. Here are some symptoms that may suggest this type of diabetes:
- often having to urinate;
- being required to drink frequently;
- notice that a wound takes longer to heal than usual;
- tiredness ;
- have blurred vision;
- recurrent occurrence of infections.
What are the potential complications?
Appropriate treatment and rigorous follow-up of a diabetic patient help prevent the occurrence of long-term complications.
These complications can be cardiovascular diseases, such as strokes and myocardial infarctions; neuropathic disorders, such as numbness, tingling, and loss of feeling in the limbs; healing problems, sometimes leading to superinfection of wounds and in severe cases amputations; kidney problems, such as kidney failure and, in more severe cases, the need for dialysis or a kidney transplant; ophthalmic lesions, which cause vision problems such as glaucoma, cataracts or even blindness.