Diabetes mellitus is often simply called Diabetes and is a serious chronic disease characterized by abnormalities in the metabolism of carbohydrate, protein and fat. Individuals with diabetes have bodies that do not produce or alternatively do not respond to insulin, a hormone produced by the Islets of Langerhans in the pancreases.

Classification

Type 1 Diabetes: Very little or no insulin is produced. Insulin injections are an essential part of managing Type 1 Diabetes. Appropriate diet and lifestyle changes must also be made. Diagnosis is usually made before the age of 30 years

Type 2 Diabetes: The insulin produced by the pancrease is insufficient for the body’s needs or the insulin is ineffective, which means the body’s cells to not respond to the insulin produced.  This is also known as insulin resistance. Type 2 Diabetes is usually diagnosed in individuals over 40 years of age and can be managed with appropriate diet and lifestyle changes. Weight control is an essential part of the management. In some individuals, it is also necessary to use oral hypoglycaemic drugs, which improve to sensitivity of the body cells to insulin, in order to get adequate blood glucose control.

High blood glucose (hyperglycaemia) is the common denominator in all diabetics. The rise in blood glucose first gives rise to symptoms of excessive thirst (polydipsia) and urine production (polyuria). Weight loss usually follows these symptoms. In individuals suffering from diabetes, the body uses fat as an alternative source of energy because the carbohydrate source has become unavailable for energy production. This leads to a disturbance of the acid-base balance, with the accumulation of ketones in the blood causing ketosis which, if left untreated, leads to a diabetic coma.  Effective control of the raised blood glucose is necessary in order to limit the complications of diabetes.

The complications of diabetes are the result of damage to the blood vessels and nerves:

  • Blurred vision and eye problems (diabetic retinopathy)
  • Poor circulation with sores that will not heal (may lead to gangrene)
  • Kidney damage (nephropathy)
  • Nerve damage (neuropathy)

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