Diabetes: All You Should Know

“What is diabetes?”

Describing what the term means is key to understanding what it is all about. Diabetes, a common name for diabetes mellitus, is a disease of body metabolism where high amounts of sugar are secreted. Insulin is a hormone that carries blood sugar to the cells for use as energy or simply for storage. The body of a diabetic person cannot produce sufficient insulin for this task or cannot use the produced insulin effectively.

When diabetes-induced high blood sugar is not treated, the kidney, eyes, nerves, and other organs can be damaged.

Types of diabetes

  • Type 1 diabetes:This is an autoimmune disease. It happens when the pancreas, the production site of insulin, is attacked and destroyed by the immune system. The reason for this attack is not known. Around 10 percent of diabetic persons are diagnosed with this diabetes type.
  • Type 2 diabetes:Here, the body is resistant to insulin, and as such, sugar is not removed from the blood but rather accumulates in it.
  • Prediabetes:This occurs when blood sugar is above the normal level but hasn’t reached a point where it can be classified as type 2 diabetes.
  • Gestational diabetes:This is when the sugar in the blood is high in pregnancy. It happens when the placenta produces hormones that block insulin.

There is an uncommon condition called diabetes insipidus. It is not linked to diabetes mellitus though the names are alike. However, the insipidus part of diabetes happens when excess fluid is removed from the body by the kidneys.

There are causes, symptoms, and treatments peculiar to each diabetes type.

Diabetes symptoms

An increase in blood sugar will trigger symptoms of diabetes.

What are the general symptoms?

  • Increased thirst
  • Increased hunger
  • Loss of body weight
  • Hazy vision
  • Frequent urination
  • Sores that do not heal
  • Extreme fatigue

Symptoms of diabetes in men

Men who have diabetes will not only have the general symptoms but may experience poor libido (sex drive), reduced muscle strength, and erectile dysfunction (ED).

Symptoms of diabetes in women

Diabetic women may experience yeast infection, dry, itchy skin, and urinary tract infection (UTI).

Symptoms of type 1 diabetes

  • Severe hunger
  • More need to drink water
  • Unplanned weight loss
  • Tiredness
  • Hazy vision
  • Frequent urination

Mood changes may also be experienced.

Symptoms of type 2 diabetes

  • Severe hunger
  • More need to drink water
  • Slow-healing sores
  • Tiredness
  • Hazy vision
  • Frequent urination

Recurring infections are also a symptom. When glucose level is high, healing becomes problematic for the body.

Symptoms of gestational diabetes

Many women experiencing gestational diabetes are asymptomatic (show no symptoms). This condition is diagnosed in a routine blood sugar test. It can also be identified in an oral glucose tolerance test. These tests are usually done within weeks 24 and 28 of the gestation period.

Although it is rare, very frequent urination and increased thirst are symptoms women with gestational diabetes may experience.

In summary

Diabetes can present very slight symptoms that make it unidentifiable initially. Go for a checkup so that your private doctor London will test your blood sugar levels.

What causes diabetes?

For each type of diabetes, some factors cause them.

Causes of type 1 diabetes

The cause of this diabetes type is not known to doctors. For unexplainable reasons, the pancreas which produces insulin is accidentally attacked and levelled down by the immune system.

Some persons may develop diabetes genetically. Also, there is a possibility that a virus can trigger attacks by the immune system.

Causes of type 2 diabetes

A blend of lifestyle and genetics plays a role in type 2 diabetes. The risk for this diabetes type is increased when one is overweight as well. When you have too much weight around the belly area, your cells develop more resistance to what insulin does to sugar in the blood.

Families are diagnosed to have this condition. In some cases, family members carry genes that increase their chances of being obese and having type 2 diabetes.

Causes of gestational diabetes

During pregnancy, hormones change. It is this change in hormones that causes gestational diabetes. In pregnant women, the placenta produces hormones that lower the effect of insulin on the cells. Consequently, a high level of sugar can be found in the blood of a pregnant mother.

The risk of gestational diabetes is also high if, during pregnancy, a woman becomes obese.

In summary

The genes and factors in the environment are instrumental in causing diabetes. Your doctor can tell you more.

Risk factors of diabetes

Some factors can make you more vulnerable to diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes risk factors

This can happen if:

  • You are a child or teenager
  • Your parent or sibling has type 1 diabetes
  • You have inherent genes associated with the condition

Type 2 diabetes risk factors

You can develop this type if:

  • You are obese
  • You are 45 years and above
  • Your sibling or parent has type 2 diabetes
  • You don’t engage in physical activities
  • You had gestational diabetes previously
  • You have prediabetes
  • You have high levels of triglycerides, cholesterol, and high blood pressure
  • You come from a lineage of African-American, Hispanic or Latino American, Alaska Native, Pacific Islander, American Indian, or Asian American parents

Gestational diabetes risk factors

Chances of having this diabetes are high if:

  • You are above 25 years
  • You are overweight
  • You have had gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy
  • Your newborn’s weight is higher than 9 pounds
  • You have type 2 diabetes running in the family
  • You have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

In summary

Underlying medical conditions, environment, and family history are factors that can contribute to diabetes. Your doctor can advise you on controllable risks and those that are not.

Complications with diabetes

Tissues and organs located in the body can be destroyed following elevated blood sugar levels. Prolonged high blood sugar that is not treated will cause more complications.

Diabetes complications can be:

  • A stroke, heart attack, and heart disease
  • Nephropathy
  • Neuropathy
  • Loss of vision and retinopathy
  • Hearing loss
  • Dementia
  • Depression
  • Foot damage like infection and slow healing sores
  • Skin conditions like fungal and bacterial infections

Complications with gestational diabetes

When a pregnant woman has untreated or uncontrolled gestational diabetes, the mother and baby can be affected. The baby may develop complications like:

  • Premature birth
  • Jaundice
  • Low blood sugar
  • Stillbirth
  • Abnormal birth weight
  • High risk of type 2 diabetes in future

The pregnant mother can have complications like high blood pressure or type 2 diabetes. Her delivery may even be done via a C-section. Again, her chances of gestational diabetes in other pregnancies may increase.

In summary

Severe medical complications may arise from diabetes. The condition can be controlled with lifestyle changes and medication. Your doctor can provide useful tips to prevent prevalent diabetes complications.

Treating diabetes

Doctors use several different medications to treat diabetes. Some of these drugs are ingested orally, and others are intravenous.

Treating type 1 diabetes

The primary treatment for this condition is insulin. Following the failure of the body to produce this hormone naturally, it is administered to replace the hormone.

In application are four common types of insulin. What makes them different is their reaction time and duration of effect.

  • The rapid-acting insulin begins to work in 15 minutes. Its effect lasts between 3 to 4 hours
  • The short-acting insulin begins to work in 30 minutes. Its effect lasts between 6 to 8 hours
  • The intermediate-acting insulin begins to work in 1 to 2 hours. Its effect lasts between 12 to 18 hours
  • The long-acting insulin begins to work a few hours post-injection. Its effect lasts for 24 hours or more

Treating type 2 diabetes

Some patients with type 2 diabetes can manage the condition with exercise and diet. Medication may be needed when lifestyle changesare not sufficient to reduce sugar in the blood.

The table below shows some drugs and how they reduce blood sugar levels.

Drug type How they work Examples
Alpha-glucosidase inhibitors Reduce the breakdown of starchy and sugary foods by the body Acarbose (Precose) and miglitol (Glyset)
Biguanides Lower the amount of liver-produced glucose Metformin (Glucophage)
DPP-4 inhibitors Boost blood sugar while preventing it from reducing too much Linagliptin (Tradjenta), saxagliptin (Onglyza), and sitagliptin (Januvia)
Glucagon-like peptides Alter the method the body uses to produce insulin Dulaglutide (Trulicity), exenatide (Byetta), and liraglutide (Victoza)
Meglitinides Trigger the release of more insulin from the pancreas Nateglinide (Starlix) and repaglinide (Prandin)
SGLT2 inhibitors Release more glucose into your urine Canagliflozin (Invokana) and dapagliflozin (Farxiga)
Sulfonylureas Trigger the release of more insulin from the pancreas Glyburide (DiaBeta, Glynase), glipizide (Glucotrol), and glimepiride (Amaryl)
Thiazolidinediones Boost the activity of insulin Pioglitazone (Actos) and rosiglitazone (Avandia)


Patients may not take a single drug; they may need more than one. Certain persons can also take insulin with type 2 diabetes.

Treating gestational diabetes

There is a need to keep an eye on your blood sugar level many times a day for pregnant women. If it is elevated, changes in diet and exercise may or may not suffice to lower it.

Research shows that around 10 to 20 percent of gestational diabetic women may need insulin to reduce sugar in their blood. The growing baby won’t be harmed by insulin.

In summary

The type and cause of your diabetes will determine the kind of drug, be it single or a combination, that your doctor will prescribe. There are several medications available for the treatment of diabetes.

Diabetes and diet

A healthy diet can be integral to controlling diabetes. There are cases where a diet change is just what you need to keep the disease under control.

Type 1 diabetes and diet

Blood sugar levels will increase or decrease following what you eat daily. There will be a quick rise in blood sugar when starchy or sugary foods are eaten. However, fat and proteinous foods will trigger a slow increase.

The doctor may ask that you reduce your daily consumption of carbohydrates. You may need to balance your starchy food consumption with doses of insulin.

It would be great to consult a dietitian who can help you get the right foods for diabetes. A healthy balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fats can help in managing blood sugar.

Type 2 diabetes and diet

With the right kind of food, you can burn some calories, maintain a good weight, and blood sugar can be put under control.

Counting carbs is critical for those with type 2 diabetes that need to eat right. With the help of a dietitian, you can measure what quantity of carb every meal should contain.

To maintain blood sugar levels, you can adopt eating small portions of food in a day. Some healthy foods you can eat include:

  • Whole grains
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Healthy fats like nuts and olive oil
  • Lean protein like fish and poultry

Please note that some foods will not encourage your control of blood sugar. Take note of these foods and avoid them.

Gestational diabetes and diet

Throughout your pregnancy, a healthy diet is critical to you and your baby’s development. If you choose your food wisely, the need for diabetes medication may be eliminated.

So, eat healthy portions, and reduce salty or sugary foods. Your baby indeed needs some sugar for growth, but you should watch out and not eat so much.

Develop a healthy eating plan with the guidance of a dietitian. These experts will ensure all the necessary macronutrients are available in the right proportion.

Diagnosing diabetes

Those experiencing symptoms or at risk of diabetes should get a test. Pregnant women undergo a routine test for gestational diabetes in their second or third trimesters.

The following tests are used in the diagnosis of prediabetes and diabetes:

  • Fasting plasma glucose (FPG) test: You need to fast for 8 hours before this test, after which your blood sugar is measured
  • A1C test: This test gives an overview of what your blood sugar looks like over the previous three months.

For the diagnosis of gestational diabetes,your private doctor in  London will test your blood sugar level between weeks 24 and 28 of your pregnancy.

  • During the glucose challenge test, the doctor checks your blood sugar level one hour after you finish consuming a sugary drink
  • In the 3-hour glucose tolerance test, you do a night fast, take a sugary drink, and have your blood sugar level checked afterwards

The sooner you find out if you have diabetes, the quicker your treatment can start. Consult your doctor for more information about if you need a test and what kind of tests are there.

Preventing diabetes

Since an immune system defect triggers type 1 diabetes, it is not easy to prevent it. Specific factors that cause type 2 diabetes, like age and genetics, are not within your control as well.

However, most cases of diabetes can be controlled. A huge percentage of diabetes prevention techniques hinges on altering what you eat and the kind of physical fitness you perform.

Should it be that the doctor’s diagnosis shows you have prediabetes, there are a couple of things you can do to hold off or avoid developing type 2 diabetes:

  • Engage in aerobic exercises like cycling or walking for a minimum of 2 hours 30 minutes every week
  • Stop eating trans and saturated fats, including refined carbohydrates
  • Add to your diet more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
  • Reduce your food ration
  • If you are overweight, make an effort to lose 7 percent of that weight

The above are not the only strategies for preventing diabetes. Speak with your doctor to learn more ways via which diabetes can be avoided.

Diabetes in pregnancy

It is possible that during pregnancy, non-diabetic women can develop the condition out of the blues. The hormones blocking insulin that are produced by the placenta can increase blood sugar.There are times when a woman diagnosed with diabetes carries the condition into pregnancy. The condition is referred to as pre-gestational diabetes.

Gestational diabetes is expected to disappear after childbirth; however, it puts you at more risk of having diabetes in the future.The International Diabetes Federation says around half the number of gestational diabetic women will get type 2 diabetes in 5 to 10 years of childbirth.

A baby might develop complications like jaundice or breathing difficulty if the mother had diabetes in pregnancy.

To keep complications at bay, your doctor has to monitor your condition, especially if you are diagnosed with pre-gestational or gestational diabetes. To know more about diabetes and pregnancy, seek your doctor’s advice.

Diabetes in children

Type 1 and type 2 diabetes can affect children. For young children, it is essential that blood sugar is controlled since vital body organs like the heart and kidney can be damaged by the condition.

Type 1 diabetes in children

This autoimmune type of diabetes sometimes begins in the early days of childhood. A key symptom of this is an increased urge to urinate. Children who have type 1 diabetes may begin to wet the bed even after being trained to use the toilet.

Other signs of the condition include very severe fatigue, hunger, and thirst. Children experiencing type 1 diabetes need immediate treatment – it’s very critical. This is because the condition can trigger increased blood sugar and dehydration – these could be medical emergencies.

Type 2 diabetes in children

Since type 2 diabetes was uncommon in children, type 1 diabetes was termed “juvenile diabetes”. But with the increase in the number of obese children, it is common to find type 2 diabetes in children of this age group.

Studies have shown that type 2 diabetic children are asymptomatic (show no symptoms). Sometimes, it is during a physical examination that the doctor will identify the disease.

When type 2 diabetes is not treated, it can trigger permanent complications, including blindness, kidney disease and heart disease.

Children who eat healthy foods and exercise may control their blood sugar levels and avoid complications.

Note that type 2 diabetes is increasingly popular these days in children. As a parent, you need to know what the signs of this condition are. Your child’s doctor can be of help in this case.


Diabetes is a blood sugar disease caused by a deficiency in insulin activity or production.

There are different types of diabetes, but the most common ones are type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, prediabetes and gestational diabetes. Each one affects people differently; they have different symptoms, causes and treatments.

The factors responsible for type 1 diabetes are not controllable. As for type 2 diabetes, you can prevent it with weight loss, more physical activities, and healthy foods.

Speak with your doctor about the potential risks of diabetes. Should you be at risk of this condition, go to your private GP for a blood sugar test. Kindly adhere to all the doctor’s advice concerning how to manage the sugar in your blood.

As for children, teach them to make healthy food choices and participate in physical workouts. If they have symptoms, take them to the doctor for treatment.

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