Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas that regulates blood sugar. Diabetes is a condition in which your body either can’t produce insulin, or isn’t able to properly utilize the insulin it produces. It is a chronic and often debilitating disease which in some cases is fatal.
Sugar is the body’s source of energy, but insulin is required to make that energy source usable, helping glucose (sugar) from the food you eat get into your cells to be used as energy. Without insulin, glucose remains in your blood, not reaching your cells. Glucose in the blood is what causes health issues like damage to organs, blood vessels, and nerves.
Diabetes currently has no cure, but there are steps you can take to manage it and maintain and high quality of life.
Type 1 diabetes Type 1 diabetes means your body does not produce insulin, caused by the immune system attacking and destroying the pancreatic cells that make it.
Though type 1 diabetes can appear at any age, it is usually diagnosed in children and young adults. People with type 1 diabetes need to take insulin every day.
Type 2 diabetes Type 2 is the most common type of diabetes, usually occurring around middle-age or older. Type 2 diabetes means your body does not make or use insulin well.
With type 2 diabetes, the pancreas is usually producing some insulin, but either not enough, or the body’s cells are resistant to it. This insulin resistance happens in fat, liver, and muscle cells.
SymptomsThere are many signs and symptoms of diabetes, which can include:
- Unusual thirst
- Frequent urination
- Weight change (gain or loss)
- Extreme fatigue
- Blurred vision
- Frequent or recurring infections
- Cuts and bruises that are slow to heal
- Tingling or numbness in the hands or feet
- Trouble getting or maintaining an erection
Diagnosis The preferred way to diagnose diabetes is the fasting blood glucose test. It’s both easy to perform and convenient. After fasting overnight (for at least 8 hours), a single sample of blood is drawn and sent to the laboratory. Your doctor may also analyse it accurately within their office using a glucose meter.
Other diagnosis methods include:
- Random blood glucose
- Oral glucose tolerance test
TreatmentDiabetes management includes a variety of components, including:
- Education – diabetes education is an important first step. Those who have the condition need to be informed about it.
- Physical activity – regular physical activity helps your body lower blood glucose levels, promotes weight loss, reduces stress and improves overall fitness.
- Nutrition – What you eat (as well as when and how much you eat) plays an important role in regulating your blood sugar.
- Weight management – Maintaining a healthy weight is crucial in the management of type 2 diabetes particularly.
- Medication – Type 1 diabetes is always treated with insulin. Type 2 diabetes is managed through physical activity and meal planning, and may require medications and/or insulin to assist your body in controlling blood sugar more effectively.
- Stress management – Learning to reduce your stress in day-to-day life can help people with diabetes better manage their condition.
- Blood pressure – High blood pressure can lead to eye disease, heart disease, stroke and kidney disease, so people with diabetes should try to maintain a blood pressure level below 130/80. Working on the above factors is a great way to accomplish this.