Diabetes, often referred to by doctors as diabetes mellitus, describes a group of metabolic diseases in which the person has high blood glucose (blood sugar), either because insulin production is inadequate, or because the body’s cells do not respond properly to insulin, or both. Patients with high blood sugar will typically experience polyuria (frequent urination), they will become increasingly thirsty (polydipsia) and hungry (polyphagia).
Diabetes is a lifelong condition that causes a person’s blood sugar level to become too high.
There are two main types of diabetes:
- Type 1 diabetes: The body does not produce insulin. Some people may refer to this type as insulin-dependent diabetes, juvenile diabetes, or early-onset diabetes. People usually develop type 1 diabetes before their 40th year, often in early adulthood or teenage years.Type 1 diabetes is nowhere near as common as type 2 diabetes. Approximately 10% of all diabetes cases are type 1.
Patients with type 1 diabetes will need to take insulin injections for the rest of their life. They must also ensure proper blood-glucose levels by carrying out regular blood tests and following a special diet.
Between 2001 and 2009, the prevalence of type 1 diabetes among the under 20s in the USA rose 23%, according to SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth data issued by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
- Type 2 diabetes: The body does not produce enough insulin for proper function, or the cells in the body do not react to insulin (insulin resistance).Approximately 90% of all cases of diabetes worldwide are type 2.
Some people may be able to control their type 2 diabetes symptoms by losing weight, following a healthy diet, doing plenty of exercise, and monitoring their blood glucose levels. However, type 2 diabetes is typically a progressive disease it gradually gets worse and the patient will probably end up have to take insulin, usually in tablet form.
Type 2 diabetes is far more common than type 1. In the UK, around 90% of all adults with diabetes have type 2.
During pregnancy, some women have such high levels of blood glucose that their body is unable to produce enough insulin to absorb it all. This is known as gestational diabetes.
Many more people have blood sugar levels above the normal range, but not high enough to be diagnosed as having diabetes.
This is sometimes known as pre-diabetes. If your blood sugar level is above the normal range, your risk of developing full-blown diabetes is increased.
It’s very important for diabetes to be diagnosed as early as possible because it will get progressively worse if left untreated.
Symptoms of Diabetes
Diabetes symptoms vary depending on how much your blood sugar is elevated. Some people, especially those with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, may not experience symptoms initially. In type 1 diabetes, symptoms tend to come on quickly and be more severe.
Some of the signs and symptoms of type 1 and type 2 diabetes are:
- Increased thirst
- Frequent urination
- Extreme hunger
- Unexplained weight loss
- Presence of ketones in the urine (ketones are a byproduct of the breakdown of muscle and fat that happens when there’s not enough available insulin)
- Blurred vision
- Slow-healing sores
- Frequent infections, such as gums or skin infections and vaginal infections
Although type 1 diabetes can develop at any age, it typically appears during childhood or adolescence. Type 2 diabetes, the more common type, can develop at any age, though it’s more common in people older than 40.