Diabetes Definition, Types of diabetes, Signs and symptoms

Diabetes Definition, Types of diabetes, Signs and symptoms, Causes, Diabetes risk factors

Definition of diabetes

Diabetes is a metabolic disease that causes high blood sugar levels. Diabetes is related to the hormone insulin, which plays a role in moving sugar from the body into cells to be stored as energy. In people with diabetes, the pancreas produces very little insulin, or the body does not respond properly to insulin. When people with diabetes don’t take medication properly, their bodies can’t use insulin the way they should. This condition will cause too much sugar in the blood (high blood sugar). 
Therefore, diabetes can trigger serious health problems that threaten life. Diabetes is a lifelong disease. About 80% of cases can be prevented by detecting it as early as possible. But in fact, 1 in 2 people with diabetes do not know that they have diabetes. Based on WHO data, in 2015 there were 415 million people with diabetes worldwide, and that number is predicted to increase to 642 million people by 2040. There is no treatment for diabetes. However, with medication and lifestyle changes, the disease can be controlled and the patient can lead a healthy life.

Types of Diabetes

Diabetes mellitus can be grouped into the following types:

  • Type 1 diabetes

This condition is caused by damage to the beta cells in the pancreas gland that function to produce insulin. The pancreas produces little or no insulin, so sugar cannot enter the cells to be used for energy. Patients with type 1 diabetes need to use insulin injections to control blood sugar levels. Type 1 diabetes is the type of diabetes that is most often found in people under the age of 30, but is experienced by anyone.

  • Type 2 diabetes

In type 2 diabetes, the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or the insulin does not function properly. 9 out of 10 people with diabetes have type 2 diabetes. This condition is more common in people aged 40 years and over. Type 2 diabetes can usually be controlled with diet, weight, and exercise. However, the treatment also includes medication or insulin injections.

  • Gestational diabetes

In addition, diabetes can also occur in pregnancy which is known as gestational diabetes. This condition is caused by hormonal changes during pregnancy. The placenta produces hormones that make cells less sensitive to the effects of insulin. This triggers high blood sugar during pregnancy. 

Medical specialist Endocrine, Internal Medicine
Symptom Excessive thirst, frequent urination, excessive hunger
Risk factors Family history of diabetes, obesity, autoantibodies
Diagnostic method Blood sugar test, HbA1c. test
Treatment Healthy diet, regular exercise, blood sugar lowering drugs
Drug Insulin, high blood pressure medication, aspirin
Complications Heart disease, neuropathy, kidney disorders
When should you go to the doctor? Experiencing symptoms of excessive thirst, frequent urination, excessive hunger

Signs and symptoms of diabetes

Symptoms of diabetes vary depending on how high the blood sugar level is. Some people with or with type 2 diabetes may not experience early symptoms. But in type 1 diabetes, symptoms tend to come on quickly and are more severe. Some of the symptoms of type 1 and 2 diabetes are:

  • Excessive thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Excessive hunger
  • Dry mouth
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Presence of ketones (the result of the breakdown of muscle and fat that occurs when there is not enough insulin) in the urine
  • Fatigue
  • Easy to get angry
  • Blurred vision
  • Wound healing is slower
  • Frequent infections of the gums, skin or vagina
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
  • Dry and itchy skin

Causes of diabetes

The cause of diabetes is impaired function of the pancreas in producing insulin. The pancreas produces insulin which functions as a controller of sugar in the blood. When food is digested and enters the bloodstream, insulin moves glucose from the blood into the cells, where it can be processed for energy. In people with diabetes, it is difficult for the body to convert glucose into energy because there is not enough insulin or the insulin is not functioning properly.

Diabetes risk factors

The risk factors for diabetes vary depending on the type below: In type 1 diabetes, risk factors include:

  • Age of children or teenagers
  • Have a parent or sibling with a similar condition
  • Have a gene associated with type 1 diabetes

Risk factors for type 2 diabetes include:

  • Excess weight
  • 45 years and over
  • Have a parent or sibling with a similar condition
  • Rarely exercise
  • Have you ever had gestational diabetes?

Diabetes diagnosis

The diagnosis of diabetes can be confirmed by a doctor through the following blood test methods:

  • Glycated hemoglobin  (A1C) test 

The A1C test will show your average blood sugar level over the past two or three months. This test measures the percentage of blood sugar attached to hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying protein in red blood cells. An A1C of 6.5% or higher indicates that you have Diabetes. If your A1C is between 5.7-6.4%, it indicates that you are prediabetes. If the A1C is more than 5.7%, it means the patient’s condition is normal.

  • Sugar test anytime

In this test, blood samples will be drawn at random times. A blood sugar level of 200 mg/dL or higher indicates diabetes.

  • Fasting blood sugar test

Blood samples will be taken after fasting 8-12 hours. A fasting blood sugar level <100mg/dl is normal. If 100 mg/dl – 125 mg/dl indicates that you are prediabetes. If your fasting blood sugar level is 126 mg/dl or higher, you have diabetes.

  • Oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT)

In this test, you fast overnight, have your fasting blood sugar level measured, then drink a liquid mixed with sugar, and measure it again two hours later. If blood sugar levels <140 mg/dl is normal. Meanwhile, 140 mg/dl-199 mg/dL indicates prediabetes, and blood sugar levels >200 mg/dL after two hours means diabetes.

Test for gestational diabetes

In early pregnancy, the doctor will evaluate risk factors for gestational diabetes, especially for someone who has the following conditions:

  • Obesity in early pregnancy
  • History of gestational diabetes in previous pregnancies
  • Family history of diabetes

If a person is at risk for gestational diabetes, he or she is likely to undergo screening tests during the second trimester of pregnancy. The doctor will use the following screening tests:

  • Early stage oral glucose tolerance test

The patient will drink a glucose solution and an hour later will undergo a blood test to measure blood sugar levels.

  • Advanced oral glucose tolerance test

The patient’s fasting blood sugar level will be measured. The doctor then asked the patient to drink a sweet solution and again held a sugar level check every hour for three hours.

How to treat diabetes

How to treat diabetes is done with several types of drugs. There are some drugs that are taken orally, and others are available in the form of injections (injections). Treatment of diabetes also varies and depends on the type below:

Type 1 diabetes management

Treatment of type 1 diabetes is insulin injection drugs that function to replace the insulin hormone that is not produced by the body. There are 4 types of insulin based on how quickly they work and how long their effects last in the body, namely:

  • Fast-acting insulin, which begins to work in 15 minutes and the effect lasts for 3-4 hours in the body.
  • Short-acting insulin, which begins to work in 30 minutes and its effects last for 6-8 hours in the body.
  • Medium-acting insulin, which begins to work in 1-2 hours and the effect lasts for 12-18 hours in the body.
  • Slow-acting insulin, which begins to work within a few hours of injection and its effects last 24 hours or more in the body.

Type 2 diabetes management

A good diet and exercise can help in controlling type 2 diabetes. If lifestyle changes are not able to lower the patient’s blood sugar level, diabetes medication may be needed. In addition to oral medication, some patients with type 2 diabetes may also need injectable insulin.

Gestational diabetes management

Patients with this type of diabetes need to monitor blood sugar levels several times during pregnancy. If it is too high, changes in diet and exercise may not be able to lower blood sugar levels. Approximately 10-20% of patients with gestational diabetes require insulin to treat diabetes. Insulin is safe for the fetus. 

Diabetes complications

Complications of diabetes or high blood sugar levels include:

  • Retinopathy (eye disorder)

All patients with diabetes need to have regular check-ups with an ophthalmologist every year. Diabetic patients who have eye disease or symptoms such as blurry vision in one eye need to consult an ophthalmologist more frequently.

  • Nephropathy (kidney disease)

Urine tests need to be done every year. Regular blood pressure checks are also very important because hypertension treatment can slow the progression of kidney disease.The presence of swelling in the legs is also a symptom of kidney disease that needs to be consulted by a doctor.

  • Neuropathy (disease of nerves)

The presence of numbness or tingling in the legs should be reported to the doctor every time the check-up. Check the condition of the feet for redness, cracks, calluses, or skin damage. Call your doctor immediately if you experience this.

  • Other complications

In addition to the above complications, diabetes can also trigger conditions such as glaucoma, cataracts, tooth decay, high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes, and sexual health problems.

How to prevent diabetes

Type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented. However, a healthy lifestyle can treat type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes. Some of these diabetes prevention efforts include:

  • Applying a healthy diet, such as eating low-fat, low-calorie, and high-fiber foods
  • Exercise regularly, at least 30 minutes every day or 2.5 hours per week
  • Lose weight and keep it within ideal limits

When to consult a doctor

If you feel the symptoms of diabetes, immediately consult a doctor. The earlier this condition is detected, the more effective the treatment will be. Meanwhile, for people who have been diagnosed with diabetes, they need the help of a doctor to control this diabetes. That way, complications can be avoided.

What to prepare before consulting a doctor

Before the examination, you can prepare the following things:

  • Make a list of your symptoms
  • Record the history of the disease you have and are currently experiencing
  • Keep a record of all medications, supplements, herbal remedies, or vitamins you take
  • Write down the questions you want to ask the doctor

You can also ask family or friends to accompany you when consulting with your doctor. They can provide moral support as well as help you remember the information provided by the doctor.

What will the doctor do during the consultation

The doctor will ask the following questions:

  • What are your symptoms?
  • Do you have any risk factors related to diabetes?
  • Are there family members or people around you with the same symptoms?
  • Have you sought medical help before? If so, what treatments have you tried?

After that, the doctor will perform a physical examination and recommend additional tests to confirm the diagnosis of diabetes. With this, treatment can be given appropriately.

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