Diabetes 101: Types, Symptoms & Treatment
Diabetes Mellitus is a chronic disease that is characterised by impairment in the capability of the body to produce insulin or respond to it. This in turn affects the carbohydrate metabolism and causes fluctuations in levels of blood glucose.
Types of Diabetes Mellitus
- Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus: Also known as insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, this form of diabetes is usually seen in children. It is an autoimmune condition and accounts for about 5 to 10 percent of all diabetes cases around the world.
- Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: This is the more common form of Diabetes that is found in 90-95% of the population. It is caused due to insulin resistance, has a strong association with obesity, and is usually seen in patients over 40 years.
The symptoms of diabetes depend on the level of blood sugar and duration of disease. In some cases, especially in Type 2 Diabetes, there may not be any symptoms. Commonly seen signs and symptoms of Diabetes Mellitus are:
- Frequent urination
- Increased thirst
- Increased hunger, despite eating frequent meals
- Blurred vision
- Unexplained weight loss in case of Type 1 Diabetes
- Tingling and numbness in the hands or feet in case of Type 2 Diabetes
- Unexplained fatigue
- Slow healing cuts, sores or bruises
- Frequent infections such as skin, gums or urinary infections
- Children with Type 1 Diabetes may also present with complications such as diabetic ketoacidosis. This is characterised by symptoms that range from nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, fruity-smelling breath, rapid breathing, blurred vision to confusion, sleepiness and coma.
Treatment of Diabetes
Diabetes is a chronic disease that requires careful monitoring and lifelong treatment. It is pertinent to visit a qualified doctor who can make a comprehensive diabetes treatment plan. Successful treatment of diabetes involves managing diet, lifestyle and medications holistically.
- Diet: Eating healthy is a key component of management of diabetes. Since the body’s ability to manage blood glucose is limited, it is important to avoid food and drinks with added sugars, baked goods, fried food, and food high in saturated and trans fats. Eating a balanced diet with fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains can help maintain a healthy metabolism in patients with diabetes mellitus.
- Lifestyle: Regular physical activity in the form of walking, jogging or swimming can help lower blood sugar, especially in patients with Type 2 diabetes. Studies have shown that successfully marrying a healthy diet with physical activity can have long-term benefits in patients suffering from diabetes.
- Medications: The hallmark of diabetes treatment is medication, which helps to control blood sugar levels. This could be in the form of insulin or oral medications.
Type 1 Diabetes: Insulin is absolutely necessary for patients with Type 1 diabetes. There are a variety of insulins available, such as rapid-acting insulin, long-acting insulin and intermediate insulin. Depending on the requirement of the patient, doctors prescribe the requisite dosage and combination of Insulin. Since oral insulin is deactivated by stomach enzymes, it is injected using fine needles or pens. Insulin pumps can also be considered once the patients are accustomed to the insulin treatment.
Type 2 Diabetes: Medications for Type 2 diabetes help to increase the insulin output in the body (Glimepiride, Glipizide) or increase the sensitivity of the body to insulin (Metformin). The other commonly used drugs are DPP-4 inhibitors (Sitagliptin) that promote the production of incretin, which in turn increases insulin release. Patients with Type 2 diabetes may also need insulin in cases of sickness, operative emergencies or uncontrolled episodes.
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