The word diabetes was coined by the 2nd-century A.D. Greek physician, Aretus the Cappadocian, meaning ‘the siphon’ as the condition is characterized by excessive urination.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs when the pancreas either does not produce enough insulin or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces. Hyperglycaemia, or raised blood sugar, is a common effect of uncontrolled diabetes and over time leads to serious damage to many of the body’s systems, especially the nerves and blood vessels. The word mellitus was added to diabetes in 1675 by Thomas Willis. Mel in Latin means honey and refers to the excess of glucose in the urine and blood of people with diabetes.
Types of diabetes
According to WHO, there are three main types of diabetes:
Diabetes Type 1 – The body does not produce insulin at all. Also called early onset or juvenile diabetes, it requires the person to inject insulin throughout his/her life. People suffering from this types of diabetes are also very prone to ketoacidosis. The cause is not certain and could be genetic, viral, or multifactorial.
Diabetes Type 2 – Also called maturity onset, Type 2 diabetes is a result of insulin resistance. The body doesn’t produce enough insulin, or is not able to utilize insulin effectively.
Gestational Diabetes – A form of diabetes that develops during pregnancy.
Diabetes Types 1 & 2 are chronic, lifelong medical conditions. Gestational diabetes usually disappears after the birth of a child but can later lead to type 2 diabetes.
Juvenile diabetes may be either Type 1 or Type 2, and is seen in children or adolescents.
Common symptoms of diabetes are:
- Frequent urination
- Disproportionate thirst
- Intense hunger
- Weight gain
- Unusual weight loss (More common among people with Diabetes Type 1)
- Increased fatigue
- Blurred vision
- Cuts and bruises don’t heal properly or quickly
- More skin and/or yeast infections
- Itchy skin
- Red or swollen gums
- Numbness or tingling, especially in the feet and hands
Diabetes is typically detected by carrying out a urine test, followed by a blood test
High risk groups of diabetes
Certain people are at higher risk of getting Type 2 diabetes. High risk groups include those who:-
- Are over 55
- Have a family history of diabetes
- Are overweight or obese
- Have high blood pressure
- Had diabetes during pregnancy or gave birth to a big baby (more than 9 pounds)
- Are Southeast Asian, Asian Indian, Afro-American, Hispanic American or Native American
- Have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
- Have heart disease
There is only one way to check if you have diabetes: get your blood sugar level tested.
Diabetes related complications
Diabetes is a chronic, life-long condition that requires careful monitoring and management. Left untreated, it can lead to various complications such as kidney failure, cardiovascular disease, and blindness in some cases. Diabetes causes about 5% of all deaths globally each year. Diabetes deaths are likely to increase by more than 50% in the next 10 years without urgent action and preventive measures.
Low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia)
Anyone who suffers from diabetes and takes insulin is going to face the problem of blood sugar falling too low at some point. This state is called hypoglycaemia and can be corrected quickly by eating something sweet, like candy or plain sugar. If it is not corrected, hypoglycaemia can lead to the person losing consciousness.
The typical signs of hypoglycemia are:
- dizziness or light-headedness
This is a severe condition caused by lack of insulin. It mostly affects people with type 1 diabetes. Acidic waste products called ketones are produced when the body breaks down fats. In the absence of insulin, the body cannot release all the ketones and they build up in your blood, causing ketoacidosis.
Lactic acidosis is the build-up of lactic acid in the body. Too much lactic acid in the body makes people feel ill. Otherwise, Lactic acidosis is a rare ailment. It mainly affects people with type 2 diabetes.
Bacterial / fungal infections
Patients are more prone to fungal and bacterial and infections like boils, boils, athlete’s foot, sties, ring worm, and vaginal infections.
Eye disease (retinopathy)
As per statistics, about 2% of all people who have had diabetes for 15 years or more become blind, while about 10% develop a severe visual impairment.
Kidney disease (nephropathy)
Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney disease (nephropathy) and failure. About one third of all people with diabetes develop kidney disease and approximately 20% of people with type 1 diabetes develop kidney failure.
Nerve disease (neuropathy)
Diabetic nerve disease, or neuropathy, affects at least half of all people with diabetes. Common complaints are loss of sensation in the feet or in some cases the hands, pain in the foot and problems with the functioning of different parts of the body including the heart, the eye, the stomach, the bladder and the penis. A lack of sensation in the feet and hands can lead to patients to injure themselves without realizing it.
Diseases of the circulatory system
The risk of heart disease is 2-4 times higher in diabetes patients than for those who do not have diabetes. It is the main cause of disability and death for people with type 2 diabetes in industrialized countries.
Diabetics are more likely (20 to 35 times) to require lower-limb amputation.
Prevention & Lifestyle modification
Experts and doctors believe that while there is yet no evidence to suggest that Type 1 diabetes can be prevented, primary prevention of type 2 diabetes is possible.
Weight control, a balanced diet, and increased physical activity are important in the prevention of type 2 diabetes. The benefits of reducing body weight and increasing physical activity also play a role in reducing heart disease, high blood pressure, etc.
Secondary prevention involves the early detection and prevention of complications, therefore reducing the need for treatment. Regular annual check-ups go a long way in timely detection of diabetes. Periodic check of blood glucose levels is a must as are the monitoring of blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Healthy eating, regular exercise, weight control all contribute to good cardiovascular health. Diabetics should also quit smoking.
According to the Mayo Clinic, daily intake of calories should consist of:
- Carbohydrates 45% to 65%
- Proteins 15% to 20%
- Fats 20% to 35%
Patients are advised to adhere to meal plans for portion sizes and eating times. This will keep blood sugar and your weight ideal.
Though there is no known cure for diabetes, all types of diabetes are treatable. The main treatment for a Type 1 diabetic is injected insulin, along with some dietary and exercise adherence.
If you have Type 1 and follow a healthy eating plan, do adequate exercise, and take insulin, you can lead a normal life. Larry King, Halle Berry, and several well known diabetic US baseball and basketball players lead normal lives. Type 2 patients need to eat healthily, be physically active, and test their blood glucose regularly. They may also be prescribed oral medication to control blood glucose levels. Sometimes, Type 2 patients may also require insulin injections.
Herbal Remedies for Diabetes
Diabet Guard Effective in controlling blood sugar and allied complications. It contains the goodness of Jamun, Karela, Methi, Neem, Purified Shilajit and Gurmar leaves.
Amalaki or Indian gooseberry is a rich concentrated source of Vitamin C and is effective in controlling diabetes. A tablespoon of amla juice, along with a cup of bitter gourd juice, stimulates the pancreas to produce insulin.
Neal K is a keen follower of trends in Ayurveda and Health Supplements. He also has professional interests in the field and manages health related websites and blogs.