Health

What Is Diabetes: Your Complete Guide To This Medical Condition

The Lifestyle diseases such as Diabetes, Blood Pressure, PCOD et al have become a common affair. We keep listening these terms often but most of us don't know (or rather don't completely comprehend), the cause and effect of these. So, we at Lifehacker are today helping you in decoding all about Diabetes. This is first of our three part series on this Disease. Happy reading and stay healthy and blessed!

What is diabetes?
  • Diabetes mellitus is body's inability to regulate the level of glucose in blood. The body breaks down food into glucose and uses it as a source of energy.
  • Insulin, a hormone produced by pancreas, helps to regulate the level of glucose in blood. If the body does not produce enough insulin or does not use the produced insulin effectively then it results in high level of glucose in the blood. It is known as Hyperglycemia.

What are the types of diabetes?
  • There are four types of diabetes: Type 1 - insulin dependent diabetes mellitus, Type 2 - Non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus, Gestational diabetes - pregnancy induced diabetes and Secondary diabetes mellitus - caused by genetic conditions or pancreatic disease.
  • Type 1 diabetes is diagnosed in children and young adults and was previously known as juvenile diabetes. In this type of diabetes, body does not produce insulin.
  • Type 2 diabetes is formerly known as adult-onset diabetes. People can develop type 2 diabetes at any age, even during childhood.
  • Type 2 diabetes is associated with excess weight, physical inactivity, family history of diabetes, previous history of gestational diabetes, and certain ethnicities.
  • Type 2 diabetes usually begins with insulin resistance, a condition linked to excess weight in which muscle, liver, and fat cells do not use insulin properly.
  • Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that develops only during pregnancy. Gestational diabetes affects 2 to 10 percent of all pregnancies.
  • The hormones produced during pregnancy increase the amount of insulin needed to control blood glucose levels. If the body can't meet this increased need for insulin, women can develop gestational diabetes during the late stages of pregnancy.
  • Other types of diabetes include those caused by genetic defects, diseases of the pancreas, excess amounts of certain hormones resulting from some medical conditions, medications that reduce insulin action, chemicals that destroy beta cells, infections and genetic syndromes associated with diabetes.
  • Pre-diabetes is when blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes. Pre-diabetes means a person is at increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes, as well as for heart disease and stroke.
What are the symptoms of diabetes?
  • People suffering with diabetes may have symptoms like increased thirst, hunger, blurred vision, fatigue, weight loss, skin infection, vaginal and urinary infection and frequent stomach upset.


What are the tests done to diagnose diabetes?
  • Various physical tests are done to diagnose diabetes. Fasting plasma glucose test is one of them. In this test, a person is asked to fast overnight or at least 8 hours and the level of glucose in blood is then checked.
  • The normal range of fasting blood glucose level is between 70 and 110 mg/dl. If the fasting plasma glucose level is higher than 126 mg/dl then it is indicated as diabetes mellitus. Glucose level between 110 and 126 mg/dl are indicated as impaired fasting glucose level.
  • Post prandial (PP) plasma glucose test is done two hours after having a meal, which serves as a challenge for the body to regulate the blood sugar.
  • Normal PP levels are less than 140 mg/dl. A glucose level more than 200 mg/dl indicates diabetes mellitus. While levels between 140 and 199 mg/dl are referred as impaired diabetes mellitus.
  • Random Plasma glucose test is another test done to diagnose diabetes mellitus. The glucose level above 200 mg/dl indicates diabetes.
  • Oral glucose challenge test (oGTT) is done 2 hours after giving 75 gm glucose by mouth. This test is helpful in detecting borderline diabetes and a condition called borderline diabetes.
  • Oral glucose tolerance test is suggested to diagnose pregnancy induced diabetes. All the pregnant women needs to get this test done 30 minutes after taking 50 gm of glucose.
  • If the results of oral glucose tolerance test are abnormal then the pregnant women need to undergo oGTT with 100 gm of glucose and not 75 g glucose as in the conventional test.
  • A1C test is used to detect type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetes but is not recommended for diagnosis of type 1 diabetes or gestational diabetes.
  • A1C test is also called as hemoglobin A1C, HbA1c, or glycolhemoglobin test. A1C test report the results in percentage. A normal A1C level is below 5.7 percent.
  • An A1C test result of 5.7 to 6.4 percent indicates prediabetes. People with an A1C above 6.0 percent should be considered at very high risk of developing diabetes. A level of 6.5 percent or above means a person has diabetes.
Am I at risk of developing diabetes?
  • It is suggested that people older than 45 years should get tested for diabetes. Especially those who are obese or over weight.
  • The risk factors for developing diabetes mellitus are: physical inactivity, parents or siblings with diabetes, history of gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, high density lipoprotein i.e. low HDL or high LDL cholesterol levels, etc.
  • People with history of cardiovascular disease are also at risk of developing diabetes mellitus.
  • Women who have given birth to at least one baby weighing more than 9 pounds are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • If your BMI (Body Mass Index) is not in normal range then chances of developing diabetes are higher at the later stage. Keep track of your body mass ratio.
  • Untreated sleep problems, especially sleep apnea, can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes. Night shift workers who have problem with sleepiness may also have increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
  • If you have a family history of diabetes then the chances of you developing the diabetes are high. It is suggested to keep a track of your blood sugar levels.

Photo by: Colleen.Y (flickr)
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