Diabetes is a chronic disease that arises when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces. Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas that enables cells to take in glucose from the blood and use it for energy.
Failure of insulin production, insulin action or both leads to raised glucose levels in the blood (hyperglycaemia).
This is associated with long-term damage to the body and the failure of various organs and tissues.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease characterized by the destruction of the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.Consequently, people with type 1 diabetes produce very little or no insulin and must take insulin to survive.
Type 2 diabetes is marked by insulin resistance. People with type 2 diabetes cannot use the insulin that they produce effectively. They can often manage their condition through exercise and diet. However, in many cases oral drugs are needed and often insulin is required.
Gestational diabetes (GDM) is a condition in which women without previously diagnosed diabetes have high blood glucose levels during their pregnancy. GDM affects about 4% of all pregnant women.
Understand diabetes: Know the warning signs*
• Frequent urination • Excessive thirst • Increased hunger • Weight loss • Tiredness • Lack of interest and concentration • Vomiting and stomach pain (often mistaken as the flu) • A tingling sensation or numbness in the hands or feet • Other signs include blurred vision, frequent infections and slow-healing wounds *These can be mild or absent in people with type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes is a chronic, life-long condition that requires careful monitoring and control. Without proper management it can lead to very high blood sugar levels. These are associated with long-term damage to the body and the failure of various organs and tissues.
• Cardiovascular disease, which affects the heart and blood vessels, and may cause fatal complications such as coronary heart disease (leading to a heart attack) and stroke. • Kidney disease (diabetic nephropathy), which may result in total kidney failure and the need for dialysis or kidney transplant. • Nerve disease (diabetic neuropathy), which can ultimately lead to ulceration and amputation of the toes, feet and lower limbs. • Eye disease (diabetic retinopathy), characterized by damage to the retina of the eye which can lead to vision loss .
There are many risk factors for type 2 diabetes. They include: • Obesity and overweight • Lack of exercise • Previously identified glucose intolerance • Unhealthy diet • Increased age • High blood pressure and high cholesterol • A family history of diabetes • A history of gestational diabetes • Ethnicity – higher rates of diabetes have been reported in Asians, Hispanics, Indigenous peoples (USA, Canada, Australia) and African Americans.
At present, type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented. The environmental triggers that are thought to generate the process that results in the destruction of the body’s insulin-producing cells are still under investigation. Type 2 diabetes, however, can be prevented in many cases by maintaining a healthy weight and being physically active.
Once identified, people at high risk of diabetes should have their plasma glucose levels measured by a health professional to detect Impaired Fasting Glucose or Impaired Glucose Tolerance, both of which indicate an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. Prevention efforts should target those at risk in order to delay or avoid the onset of type 2 diabetes.
There is substantial evidence that achieving a healthy body weight and moderate physical activity can help prevent the development of type 2 diabetes.
IDF recommends a goal of :
At least 30 minutes of daily exercise, such as brisk walking, swimming, cycling or dancing .
Regular walking for at least 30 minutes per day, for example, has been shown to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by 35-40%.