Guide to Diabetes: Types, Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment
Diabetes is one of the most common illnesses worldwide. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 422 million people suffer from the disease, with the majority of cases found in low and middle-income countries. Diabetes is also responsible for 1.6 million deaths annually, and trends suggest that this number will continue to rise.
These figures are a cause for concern because it means that the disease is a grave threat to public health. In the Philippines, 1 out of 5 Filipinos is reportedly either diabetic or on their way to becoming one. If you want to stay healthy and avoid the disease, the first thing to do is have a better understanding of it. Let’s start off on the right foot by defining what diabetes is.
What is diabetes?1
Diabetes is a chronic metabolic disease affecting people who could not process sugar properly, leading to elevated blood sugar levels. As glucose builds up in the blood, compromised systems hinder the patient from using and producing insulin. In turn, this illness can lead to major complications that affect vital organs such as the eyes, heart, and kidney.
If you want to live a happy and comfortable life, knowing the causes, symptoms, and treatment options of diabetes will make it easier to maintain your physical well-being. The infographic below will cover everything you need to know.
Types and Causes of Diabetes2
Diabetes can be classified into different types, with each also having different causes. Taking note of these factors will be pivotal to your wellness.
- Type 1 – Also known as juvenile or insulin-dependent diabetes, this type is an autoimmune disorder that affects the pancreas’ ability to produce insulin. It’s usually acquired through genetics but could also be triggered by environmental factors such as viruses.2
- Type 2 – Considered the most common kind, Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition that affects how the body metabolizes sugar. People suffering from this disease have high blood sugar levels and a hard time producing and processing insulin. The ailment can be passed on through genes but is usually contracted through bad lifestyle habits.3
- Gestational Diabetes – Gestational diabetes is a condition exclusive to pregnant women. During pregnancy, hormonal changes can spike up a woman’s blood sugar levels, ultimately resulting in glucose build-up. Most cases are mild and can be treated with diet and exercise, but severe cases may require medication.4
It seems clear that contracting Type 1 and gestational diabetes is out of one’s control. However, the same can’t be said for Type 2. Given that the condition can be caused by your diet and level of physical activity, contracting the disease will largely be under your control.
With that said, being aware of diabetes symptoms will make it easy for you to identify if you or a loved one has diabetes or on their way to developing it.
- Blurred vision
- Darkening of the skin/appearance of dark spots
- Extreme tiredness or fatigue
- Frequent urination
- Increased thirst and hunger
- Slow-healing sores and aches
- Unintended weight loss
If you’re starting to manifest these signs, consult a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis. Failure to get treatment can significantly reduce the quality of life and may even lead to death.
Common Complications from Diabetes6
- Cardiovascular disease (CVD) – Diabetics have a bigger chance of contracting CVD. Elevated blood sugar levels also increase blood pressure, eventually damaging arteries and other parts of the circulatory system. With this in mind, people with the condition are at higher risk of experiencing heart attacks or strokes.
- Diabetic retinopathy – Diabetes can lead to impaired vision or complete blindness. High blood sugar and blood pressure levels can damage the vessels found in your retina.
- Diabetic neuropathy – Nerve damage is another common result of diabetes. People with diabetic neuropathy may encounter pain or numbness of the leg and feet, including problems with their digestive system, urinary tract, and heart.
- Diabetic nephropathy – Your kidney is responsible for eliminating waste and other toxic substances in your body. Diabetes may affect the blood vessels in this organ, which may pose problems in the filtering process. This can lead to irreversible kidney disease and may eventually require dialysis or transplant.
- Skin conditions – Apart from the appearance of dark spots, diabetes may make you more vulnerable to bacterial infections. This can lead to other diseases such as cellulitis, sepsis, and lockjaw.
- Slow wound healing – Diabetics have difficulty recovering from open wounds. In case you need to undergo surgery, the disease may hinder your road to recovery.
Unfortunately, there is still no cure for diabetes. Once you acquire it, the only thing you can do is to prevent it from getting worse. If you want to take that first step in managing your diabetes, there are treatment options and preventive measures you can take.
Treatment Options for Diabetes7
Considering that diabetes isn’t curable, prevention and management are key to one’s health. Fortunately, caring for your loved ones with Type 2 diabetes can be done by building and maintaining healthy habits. This includes eating more nutritious foods, making healthier lifestyle changes, and exercising to manage weight better.
Binge-eating unhealthy carbs and overconsumption of processed foods are often the main contributors to diabetes. While it may be good to spoil yourself from time to time, always practice restraint whenever sweets are served at the dinner table. Additionally, following a healthy meal plan filled with greens, fiber-rich foods, and other essential nutrients will make a big difference in your overall health.
Let go of unhealthy habits such as alcohol and tobacco, as well. Excessive consumption of these substances may aggravate the complications brought by diabetes. Adequate exercise can also help you avoid the condition and even other health issues.
Moreover, people with diabetes can better manage their condition with a doctor’s assistance. Luckily, there are medicines available to stimulate the pancreas, regulate blood glucose levels, and improve the body’s sensitivity to insulin. As an example, one common medication that patients can take would be the insulin shot.
Living a Sweet, Diabetes-free Life
Diabetes is a health problem that must not be taken lightly. In case you or a loved one is showing signs of the disease, being aware of its causes, symptoms, and treatment methods will prove beneficial. With this guide in hand, it should be easier for you to keep yourself and your loved ones healthy.
To determine if you are at risk of cardiovascular disease brought about by diabetes, don’t hesitate to take the Heart Disease Risk Checklist on our website. Get in touch with a health professional for proper treatment if you or a family member is experiencing signs.
Last medically reviewed on July 4, 2022