Diabetes: causes and symptoms

Diabetes mellitus is a disease characterized by high levels of blood sugar (glucose).  The causes of high blood sugar are linked with the defects in the body’s ability to produce and/or use insulin (hormone secreted by pancreas). The function of insulin is to transport glucose from the bloodstream into muscle, fat, and liver cells, where it provides energy. Elevated levels of blood glucose (hyperglycemia) lead to spillage of glucose into the urine.

The high level of blood sugar produces the general symptoms of polyuria (frequent urination), polydipsia (increased thirst) and polyphagia (increased hunger).

Main types of diabetes are the following:

  • Type 1 diabetes: resulting from the body’s failure to produce insulin, and requires the person to inject insulin.
  • Type 2 diabetes: resulting from insulin resistance, a condition in which cells fail to use insulin properly, sometimes combined with an absolute insulin deficiency.
  • Gestational diabetes: is developed when pregnant women, who have never had diabetes before, have a high blood glucose level during pregnancy. Such women may develop  type 2 diabetes at later stage.

Symptoms of Diabetes

 Many of its symptoms seem so harmless that Diabetes often goes undiagnosed for a long time.  The chance of developing the complications of diabetes can be reduced if detected at the initial stage.

Type 1 Diabetes

  • Frequent urination
  • Unusual thirst
  • Extreme hunger
  • Unusual weight loss
  • Extreme fatigue and Irritability

Type 2 Diabetes

  • Any of the type 1 symptoms
  • Frequent infections
  • Blurred vision
  • Cuts/bruises that are slow to heal
  • Tingling/numbness in the hands/feet
  • Recurring skin, gum, or bladder infections

Complications of Diabetes

Diabetes can develop microvascular disease (damage to small blood vessels)  which leads to blindness, kidney failure, and nerve damage. Diabetes also play a  vital role in developing macrovascular disease by accelerating the hardening and narrowing of the arteries (atherosclerosis) which leads to strokes, coronary heart disease and other  diseases of large blood vessel

Diabetes is a chronic disease which can be controlled but it lasts for lifelong.

Diagnosing diabetes

The fasting blood sugar test is the preferred way of diagnosing diabetes. It is performed by testing the blood sample after the person has fasted at least 8 hours,

  • Normal fasting plasma glucose levels are less than 100 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl).
  • Fasting plasma glucose levels of more than 126 mg/dl on two or more tests on different days indicate diabetes.
  • A random blood glucose test can also be used to diagnose diabetes. A blood glucose level of 200 mg/dl or higher indicates diabetes.


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