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Diabetes Mellitus

Updated on October 22, 2011

Diabetes is a disorder in which blood glucose levels are abnormally high because the body can't release or use insulin adequately. Insulin is one of the substances produced by the pancreas. It is responsible for the maintenance of normal blood levels of glucose, lipids and proteins. Diabetes mellitus either is the result of a decreased amount of insulin or its absolute deficiency or because of the resistance of the cells in utilizing insulin.

Diabetes is said to be present if the blood glucose level is elevated above 120 mg/dl during an overnight fast or above 180 mg/dl two-hours after glucose intake. This rise of blood glucose is called Hyperglycemia.

Symptoms

The symptoms of the disease are: high blood glucose levels in urine (glycosuria); increased thirst (Polydipsia); frequent urination (polydipsia); weight loss; increased hunger; nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.

Complications

Over a period of time, high sugar levels damage the blood vessels, nerves and other internal structures. For example due to unchecked diabetes mellitus, wounds don't heal properly, you may develop heart disease, have a stroke, gangrene, decreased vision and even blindness, poor kidney functions, diabetic ulcers, increased susceptibility towards infections etc.

Types

Diabetes mellitus is of two types:

Type 1 or the juvenile type or insulin-dependent type is found mostly in people under 20 years of age . It is caused because of absolute deficiency of insulin.

Type 2 or the adult onset or non-Insulin Dependent type is seen in people above 30 years of age. Insulin resistance (cells are unable to utilize insulin although it is present) is the main cause.

Diabetes may also occur due to some other reasons like genetic problems or by use of certain drugs and so on. These are termed as secondary diabetes.

Treatment

For type 1: Insulin therapy is beneficial. The insulin is injected in the body via disposable syringes or the Insulin-Pen.

For type 2: Drugs known as Oral Hypoglycemic agents are used. These drugs either decrease the absorption of glucose from the intestine or increase the cell's sensitivity towards insulin or they cause the pancreas to make more insulin.

Choosing which insulin or drug(s) is based on how tightly a person wishes to control his diabetes, how willing he is to monitor his blood sugar level and adjust his dosage, how varied his daily activities are, how adept he is in learning about and understanding his disease.

Diabetic patients should also check their blood sugar level by using glucose detectors, record them and supply their observations to their doctors.

Complications of therapy

Medication may reduce the level of glucose to such an extent, it may lead to severe hypoglycemic conditions (very low levels of glucose). Symptoms of hypoglycemia vary from mild headaches to unconsciousness and even coma. The first organ to be effected is the Brain, because it needs a continuous supply of glucose and discontinuity even for minutes may prove fatal.

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