What is diabetes? Definition
Diabetes, more precisely diabetes mellitus is a metabolic disorder or disease wherein the body mechanism of maintaining normal levels of glucose in the blood does not function properly.
The body cannot convert blood glucose into energy, as it normally does. As a result, the glucose levels in the blood rise above the normal limits, giving rise to the symptoms.
Carbohydrates obtained from the food that we eat are ultimately converted into blood sugar or blood glucose. The blood glucose is picked up by the body cells for cellular respiration and cellular metabolism.
When people refer to “blood sugar”, it means blood glucose and “sugar diabetes” simply means diabetes mellitus.
The glucose in the blood is used for energy, which the body requires for body functions such as breathing, body metabolism and for physical activity.
This process of transfer of blood glucose into the tissue cells is brought about by the hormone called insulin, which is produced by the pancreas.
Different types of sugars
Sugar is a simple, crystalline, edible carbohydrate that comes in different forms and which we derive from our diet
- Fructose is derived from fruits
- Lactose from milk
- Starches, which are complex carbohydrates, are derived from corn, potatoes, beans, peas, grains, pasta, and rice.
All these sugars are converted into glucose in the body and circulated in the blood. Glucose simply means sugar in the blood.
The measurement unit for blood glucose is milligrams of glucose per deciliter of blood (mg/dl). This is the unit of measurement in most countries.
How do you get diabetes mellitus? Etiology
In diabetes, insulin function is impaired and the pathway of blood glucose does not take place normally. This can happen due to two reasons:
- The pancreas does not produce enough insulin due to some pathology. This happens in type 1 diabetes.
- The insulin produced does it not facilitate the body cells to take up glucose from the blood, either due to insufficient quantity or due to some defect in the insulin. This is called insulin insensitivity and forms the etiology of Type 2 diabetes.
Both these lead to low insulin efficiency leading to an increase in levels of glucose in the blood.
Genetics and Diabetes
The genetic factor does increase your predisposition, especially to diabetes type 1. If your first-degree relative (sister, brother, son, daughter) has type 1 diabetes, you have a 6 out of 100 chance of developing it. While, in the general population, the chance rates at 6 out of 300.
According to the American Diabetes Association, the risk of your child developing diabetes type 2 is:
- One in seven, if one of its parents is diagnosed before the age of 50 years.
- One in thirteen, if it happened after the age of 50 years.
- One in two if both the parents of the child have diabetes.
But, there are other causes and risk factors, such as your lifestyle habits, that can trigger the onset of this metabolic disease even if you do not have a history in your family.
Normal blood sugar levels
It is important that a diabetic control his sugar levels and keep them in the recommended range always. Uncontrolled diabetes has its serious downside, which can lead to serious complications that have a poor prognosis and an increased mortality rate.
Normal for a person without diabetes: 70–99 mg/dl
For a person with diabetes as per ADA recommendation: 80–130 mg/dl
2 hours after meals
Normal for a person without diabetes: Less than 140 mg/dl (7.8 mmol/L)
For a person with diabetes as per ADA recommendation : Less than 180 mg/dl
HbA1C is a measure of your average blood glucose level over past 3 months
Normal for person without diabetes: Less than 5.7%
For a person with diabetes as per ADA recommendation: 7.0% or less
These numbers serve as guidelines both for diabetics and non-diabetics and you should strive to stay within these limits. Regular checkups help to identify it, and if present, and can help to prevent its complications with prompt treatment.
Effective natural remedies also play a synergistic role in the control of this metabolic disorder.
Types of diabetes
There are two types of chronic diabetes: diabetes mellitus and diabetes insipidus. Then, there are two other types that are potentially reversible: Gestational diabetes and prediabetes.
(A) Diabetes mellitus
This is the more common type, which we often hear about and is classified into three types.
Type 1 diabetes
The type 1 variety is commonly found in children and young adults. It is also referred to as juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes. This type occurs due to inadequate secretion of insulin by the pancreas.
Insulin is the hormone, which is responsible for keeping the glucose levels in the blood within normal limits. This inadequate secretion may be due to a pancreatic disorder such as an autoimmune disorder or a viral infective disorder.
Only 5% of all the people with this disorder have the type 1 variety.
Type 2 diabetes
In type 2 diabetes, the secretion of insulin is normal, but the utilization of insulin by the body cells is not proper. It is commonly found in middle-aged and above people. Hence, it is also referred to as adult onset diabetes.
This type is detected in a pregnant woman who did not have it earlier. It sets in during the second trimester of pregnancy. Unlike the other types, this type disappears after the baby is born.
The woman is likely to develop gestational diabetes again in her next pregnancy, which puts her at an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
(B) Diabetes insipidus
This is a rare form, which results from a deficient secretion of a pituitary gland hormone called vasopressin. Some of the symptoms like excessive thirst and excessive urination are common, but the treatment for this type is different.
What is Prediabetes?
This is a condition which acts a warning signal of impending diabetes. It is a sort of a forecast warning that you are going to acquire this condition. It is also called borderline diabetes.
If adequate precautions are taken at this stage, then you may still be able to prevent it. Many a times, this stage may be present for a long time and may be missed in people, who do not have regular medical check-ups.
Precautionary measures include a proper diet, regular exercise, and healthy lifestyle habits.