What is diabetes? Definition

Diabetes mellitus is a chronic metabolic disorder or disease wherein the body’s 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 its symptoms.

Carbohydrates obtained from the food that we eat are ultimately converted into glucose, which travels in the blood. 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 physical activity.

This process of transferring blood glucose into the tissue cells is brought about by the hormone called insulin, which is produced and secreted by the pancreas.

Different types of sugars

Sugar is the main component of our food that is linked to diabetes mellitus. It 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.

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 this metabolic disorder, 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 or juvenile diabetes.
  • The insulin produced does 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,  you have a 6 out of 100 chance of developing it. While, in the general population, the chance rate at 6 out of 300.

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), 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 this disorder.

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.

Fasting blood glucose levels

For a normal healthy person: 70–99 mg/dl

For a person with diabetes as per ADA recommendation: 80–130 mg/dl

Levels 2 hours after meals

For a normal healthy person: Less than 140 mg/dl (7.8 mmol/L)
For a person with diabetes as per the ADA recommendation: Less than 180 mg/dl

HbA1c blood test  

HbA1C is a measure of your average blood glucose levels over the past 3 months
For a normal healthy person: 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 this condition, and if present can help to prevent its complications with prompt treatment.

Proper exercises and the right diet also help to control the blood sugar levels and improve the effects of the medication.

Effective natural remedies also play a synergistic role in the control of this metabolic disorder.

Types of diabetes

There are two types of chronic forms of this condition: 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 and is an autoimmune disorder. This form typically 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. It is secreted by the beta cells of the pancreas.

Type 1 diabetes is caused by the autoimmune destruction of pancreatic β-cells. This leads to insulin deficiency, which leads to hyperglycemia. The beta cells may also be damaged by a viral disorder, which elicits this autoimmune disease.

Only 5% of all people with diabetes mellitus have type 1 variety. That is over 10 million people worldwide suffer from this juvenile disorder.

Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic metabolic disorder, which is very common. In this condition, the secretion of insulin is normal, but the utilization of glucose in the blood by the body cells is not proper.

Insulin fails to bring about this utilization. This is, therefore, called insulin resistance or insulin insensitivity. Since the glucose in the blood is not properly utilized, it builds up in the blood causing hyperglycemia

It is commonly found in middle-aged and above people. Hence, it is also referred to as adult-onset diabetes. It is a life-long disease and requires life-long treatment.

Gestational diabetes

Gestational diabetes 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 form of this disorder.

(B) Diabetes insipidus

This is a rare form, which results from 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?

Prediabetes is a condition, which acts as a warning signal that you may acquire this disease sooner or later. 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 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.