What is diabetes and how does it develop?
Probably, some of you’ve already been diagnosed with diabetes, and, many of you who don’t have this disease would like to prevent it.
But before you’re able to manage or prevent diabetes successfully, you must have complete knowledge about this disease.
In this article, I’m going to discuss about different forms of diabetes mellitus and basic things about this condition that you must know.
Firs of all, you must know that long before a diagnosis of diabetes, there is pre-diabetes.
How is diabetes diagnosed?
There are three ways to diagnose diabetes:
HbA1c or A1c shows the average blood sugar level for approximately the past 3 months. To measure this value you will need a blood work-up, which doesn’t require fasting. This is a great test for individuals who don’t like or can’t fast.
An A1c value of 6.5% or higher confirms the diagnosis of diabetes.
The second method to diagnose diabetes is to measure fasting glucose. Fasting means that an individual shouldn’t eat or drink anything (except pure water) for at least 8 hours.
In this case, a fasting glucose of 126 mg/dl and above establishes the diagnosis of diabetes.
Glucose tolerance test
This is the more complex method and seldom ordered. A patient drinks a specially prepared sweet drink. A blood analysis measures the blood sugar level before and 2 hours after drinking this drink.
The patient has diabetes if the sugar value 2 hours after drinking the sweet drink is equal to or above 200 mg/dl.
In general, diabetes is classified into three classes,
1) Type 1
2) Type 2
Type 1 diabetes
This form of diabetes mostly affects children and younger adults. Only a small percentage (5%) of the entire diabetic population has type 1 diabetes. These patients can’t produce insulin and therefore, are completely insulin dependent. There are multiple theories how children and younger adults end up with type 1 diabetes.
But whatever the reasons such as immune system induced or unknown, the insulin producing organ called the pancreas gets damaged. Damage to this organ affects and most of the time eliminates insulin production.
What is insulin?
Insulin is a hormone that functions as a pusher. It pushes sugar into the cells. Without this hormone, sugar can’t enter the body organs such as the liver and muscles. This is why diabetic patients have high blood sugar levels.
This is the so-called adult type diabetes and is mostly diagnosed in older individuals. This form of the disease is the most common one and almost 95% of the entire diabetic population is diagnosed with this condition.
The patients with the type 2 diabetes still produce insulin but their organs are resistant to this hormone.
This form of diabetes is first diagnosed during pregnancy. These patients have no sign of blood glucose abnormality prior to being pregnant. The reasons for this disease are mostly because of increased insulin resistance (as explained previously) and production of hormones by the placenta that result in high blood sugar levels. These hormones are growth hormones, progesterone and lactogen.
Patients with this form of diabetes are at risk of having preeclampsia (characterized by high blood pressure and damage to organs such as the kidneys during the pregnancy), newborns with excessive body weight and breathing problems of the newborn.
Patients who have gestational diabetes are at higher risk of getting type 2 diabetes.
Therefore, anybody who has gestational diabetes should work on reducing the risk factors for type 2 diabetes. This is the only way to prevent additional problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and stroke later in life.
Patients diagnosed with gestational diabetes can have a pregnancy without serious complications and deliver a healthy baby as long as they start managing this condition early.
The American Diabetes Association has also useful information about diabetes and its management.
At end of this article, let me ask you the following question:
Which one of the following forms of diabetes is the most common in our society?
1) Type 1
2) Type 2