Diabetes mellitus, commonly referred to as diabetes is a disease in which a person has high blood sugar either because the pancreas (an organ behind the stomach) does not produce enough insulin, or because cells of the body do not respond to the insulin that is produced. It prevents your body from properly using the energy from the food you eat.
Insulin is a naturally occurring hormone that helps the body use glucose for energy. Glucose (or Sugar) provides the energy your body needs for daily activities. The glucose is transported in the blood steam to the cells of the body. This process is possible with the help of insulin that lets the glucose into the cells of the body for energy. Without insulin, glucose cannot get into the body’s cells for use as energy. This will lead to an increase in the level of sugar or glucose in the blood and this condition is known as diabetes.
In Yoruba it is referred to as ‘Ito sugar’, in Igbo language ‘Oria Mamari’
There are three main types of diabetes mellitus (DM).
Type 1 is due to the body’s failure to produce insulin; the person therefore has to inject insulin. It was referred to as “juvenile diabetes”.
Type 2 diabetes is caused by insulin resistance, this is a condition in which body cells fail to use insulin properly, sometimes combined with an absolute lack of insulin. It was known as “adult-onset diabetes”.
The third main type is known as gestational diabetes and it occurs when pregnant women that had no previous diagnosis of diabetes develop a high blood glucose level. This condition may precede development of type 2 diabetes.
For type 1 diabetes symptoms develop more rapidly while for type 2 diabetes symptoms develop slowly or even absent sometimes and a person can be diabetic for years before onset of symptoms. In most cases type 2 diabetes is not discovered until it takes a toll on health.
As a result, the high blood sugar leads to the classical symptoms of (frequent urination) known as polyuria, (increased thirst) polydipsia and (increased hunger) polyphagia and weight loss. Other symptoms and signs include sores or cuts that do not heal or slow to heal, frequent vagina infections, persistent itching in the pubic area, and sexual dysfunction.
If you have diabetes, it doesn’t have to rule your life. With the right treatment, a healthy diet and regular exercise you can live a healthy normal life.
Is diabetes preventable?
Yes: by adopting healthy lifestyle habits. Regular exercise — at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week — and an improved diet that’s low in fat and high in fibre significantly helps with type 2 diabetes prevention
Risk Factors for diabetes include: a family history of diabetes, an impaired glucose tolerance which is a fasting blood glucose of 101 -125 mg/dl, ethnicity (being black), an inactive lifestyle, age 45 and older, overweight or obesity, a waist that measures more than 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men, high blood pressure (blood pressure of 140/90mmhg and above), a history of gestational diabetes (diabetes that developed in pregnancy) and high cholesterol level.
Management of diabetes involves keeping the blood sugar level as close to normal as possible. It is a chronic disease and patient participation, education, understanding, is of utmost importance, since the complications of diabetes are far less common and less severe in people who have well-managed blood sugar levels.
Diet control and lifestyle modifications are an essential part of management of diabetes. Type 1 is essentially treated with insulin while type 2 is treated with oral medications and or insulin. If you’re overweight, even losing a few pounds can help you manage your diabetes more effectively. If you haven’t already seen a dietician, ask your doctor to make an appointment for you. Keeping active will help to regulate your blood sugar levels and make insulin work more effectively.
It can also help you to lose weight, improve circulation and keep your blood cholesterol and blood pressure within healthy limits, reducing the risk of heart disease.
Diabetes complications develop after many years usually 10 to 20 years. It essentially causes damage to the blood vessels. Uncontrolled diabetes doubles the risk of heart diseases and stroke. About two out of three people with diabetes die of heart disease. Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure. It can also cause progressive and irreversible vision loss. It is the leading cause of new causes of blindness in people ages 20 to 74 years. Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to damage to nerves and it’s often in the hands, fingers, toes and feet. The symptoms are tingling sensations, numbness and pain. As a result of the nerve damage to the feet, it makes it difficult to feel sensations in the feet and thus injuries to the feet are common. Uncontrolled diabetes also causes impotence and sexual dysfunction.
Diabetes mellitus is characterized by recurrent or persistent high blood sugar. It can be diagnosed by the following methods which are simple blood tests:
A fasting blood glucose level ≥ 7.0 mmol/l (126 mg/dl)
Or in a glucose tolerance test blood glucose ≥ 11.1 mmol/l (200 mg/dL) two hours after a 75 g oral glucose load.
Or Symptoms of high blood sugar and a casual blood glucose ≥ 11.1 mmol/l (200 mg/dl)
Or what is known as glycated haemoglobin (Hb A1C) ≥ 6.5%.