By Dr. Bolanle Aderehinwo.
Diabetes is a long standing condition that affects humans, It could be simplified as inability of the body to make use of glucose (major end product of what we eat) even in the presence of more than enough glucose.
Before the body can use the glucose in the blood, a substance (hormone called insulin) which is usually secreted by an organ in the body must be present to move the glucose into the body cells. The absence or inadequacy of this substance gives diabetes; type 1 and 2 diabetes mellitus respectively.
The body cells use glucose for survival and to carry out their functions. When glucose cannot move to the cells from the blood maybe due to lack of insulin or inadequate insulin, we say the cells are suffering in the midst of surplus (despite much glucose in the blood), hence, these cells are in constant hunger.
Type 1 is common in people less than 30 years while Type 2 is found in adults.
Diabetes, especially type 2 like many other chronic diseases have no specific cause but many risk factors. These factors are responsible for the inadequacy of the hormone insulin or lack of response of the body cells to this hormone. These risk factors include:
- Age greater than 45 years.
- Genetic factors. It could be inherited.
- Being of African American descent.
- Sedentary lifestyle: Lack of exercise, sitting down so much with reduced physical activities.
- Excessive eating: uncontrolled appetite, binge eating, eating of junks.
- Excessive weight gain: Diabetes is related to BMI (body mass index) above 30.
- Pregnancy; this is when pregnancy induced diabetes. It could resolve after pregnancy.
- Family history of diabetes
- Alcohol intake in the excessive amount.
- Disease of the organ (pancreas) that produces insulin.
- Long time use of some medications like steroids.
Type one diabetes on the other hand is usually caused by some factors that are usually present at birth or acquired in infancy. It could be genetic (some genetic composition), one may be born with absence of the cells that produce insulin.
It could also be due to what is known as an autoimmune condition in which the cells of the body fight against themselves in particular the cells that produce insulin.
Now what are the signs and symptoms of diabetes?, how will someone recognize a diabetic condition?. Here are some things to watch out for.
- Eating too much: This happens because the body cells are not getting the glucose from the previous meal hence they are still hungry despite so much glucose in the blood. The person will be eating too much.
- Urinating too much: The person will be urinating in a way that seems too much on a normal day, this is because the glucose in the blood is getting to the kidney and somehow its leading to much water leaving the blood by the kidneys.
- Drinking water too much: When you think of losing so much water by urinating much, then the blood becomes somehow thicker and the body makes an attempt to somehow dilute the blood hence the brain requesting for more water intake by mouth, hence the feeling of recurrent thirst.
- Tiredness: This is from the ‘apparently feeling of no glucose and no energy’ despite so much in the blood.
- Loss of weight: The cells survive with the use of glucose, but in the assumption of absence of no glucose, the cells starve and will start dying. The person then starts losing fat cells and muscle cells in this process. The body also breaks down these fats to make an alternative source of energy for the body, despite the presence of glucose in the blood.
These 5 symptoms are usually seen but not in many people. Some people won’t know until the complications have set in and will be presenting with the symptoms of those complications.
Treatment of diabetes is geared towards the efforts to take glucose into the cells and reduce glucose in the blood. Too much glucose in the blood that’s not available to the cells is very dangerous to all the body cells including the brain. Hence treatment is aimed at achieving
- Movement of glucose to the cells.
- Reducing glucose in the blood.
- Prevention of complications.
These treatment include;
- Tablets that reduce glucose in the blood. Your doctor will write for you. This is usually for type 1.
- Insulin replacement, the hormone so much needed.
- Clinic attendance, there’s a need to attend clinic and see your doctor for updates on your treatment.
- Treatment of any root cause for example, some cancers can cause diabetes.
Complications of diabetes are usually found in long standing uncontrollable blood glucose or in non compliance to medications and treatment. Diabetes is usually diagnosed while trying to invest the cause of these complications that may include.
- Kidney failure/disease.
- Loss of consciousness/coma
- Wounds that won’t heal, usually on feet or hands. This is one big reason for amputation.
- Eye disease.
- Heart disease.
- Low defense level of the body, the body will not be able to fight against infections as it should, hence the person may come down with some uncommon infections.
Prevention of diabetes is usually around lifestyle changes including:
- Adequate exercise: This is described as a work out of about 30min daily 3 times in a week. Taking a brisk walk and early morning exercises.
- Reduction of refined sugar intake.
- Stopping smoking.
- Avoiding or minimizing alcohol.
- Eating healthy with enough intake of fruits and vegetables.
- Losing weight: You should target a BMI below 30 or at least between 19 and 25. BMI is gotten by dividing your weight with the square of your height. Weight in KG while height is in meters.
Coping with diabetes can be sweatless if you;
- Understand diabetes and what’s happening in your body.
- Get an endocrinologist (special diabetes doctor) to see you.
- Keep clinic attendance with your doctor.
- Comply with your drugs as prescribed with meals.
- Add all the preventive measures above to whatever treatment you are receiving.
As we can see from Covid 19 death that people with chronic diseases like diabetes are seriously affected, it is to call our attention to how important we must take our health and prevent whatever sickness is preventable.