Interesting Facts About Diabetes Mellitus
Diabetes mellitus can lead to numerous other health issues making it one of the most complex conditions to understand. The Free Medical Dictionary gives this definition:
"Diabetes mellitus is a condition in which the pancreas no longer produces enough insulin or cells stop responding to the insulin that is produced, so that glucose in the blood cannot be absorbed into the cells of the body."
This seemingly straightforward problem with the pancreas can have serious consequences for the entire health of the body.
At the present time, diabetes can only be controlled not cured. It can also increase a person's risk of developing a range of medical conditions such as:
- Heart disease
- Eye and vision problems
- Kidney disease
In our body we have billions of cells. Each of them need energy in order to carry out the essential functions to maintain health. The main source of energy is a sugar known as glucose. This is a simple sugar we get from eating foods such as carbohydrates. When carbohydrates are digested this process produces glucose.
The glucose then goes into the blood stream where it's carried to the cells of the body. However, in order to get into the cells, the glucose needs help from a hormone called insulin. The hormone insulin - which is made in the pancreas - joins with glucose and takes into the cell to be used for energy. Insulin is like a key that can open the cell door. When the body cells no longer recognise the insulin 'key' or if not enough insulin is produced, then the glucose remains in the blood stream.
When glucose levels in the blood begin to rise, the body tries to dilute it, by drawing out fluid from the body cells and filtering it into the blood. When this extra fluid goes into the blood stream the body will then excrete it as urine. This is why many people with undiagnosed diabetes may pass a lot of urine. This is the body's way of getting rid of excess glucose in the blood and when the urine is tested, it will show 'positive' for sugar.
However, as the body gets rid of the excess glucose the body cells are left without energy. This sends out signals to eat food and people can feel extremely hungry. The body will then try to convert stored body proteins and fats into sugar for the cells.
When the body breaks down stored proteins and fats this can result in acid compounds forming. These are called ketones and may build up in the blood stream resulting in a conditon called 'ketoneacidosis'. This can be potentially fatal if it isn't treated.
The severity of the diabetes illness depends on what type the person suffers from and we'll now have a look at these.
Did you know?
1. There are thousands of people in the Western world that are living with undiagnosed diabetes.
2. That many years ago doctors and nurses had to taste a person's urine to find out if it had sugar in it - there were no automatic chemical tests at that time.
3. It's thought that diabetes might have been present in ancient Egypt.
4. A Greek physician called Aretaeus is usually given the credit for the name 'diabetes'. He believed that diabetes was caused by snake bites.
5. The word diabetes comes from the Greek word for siphon and mellitus comes from Latin and means honey-like to infer the sugary taste of diabetic urine.
6. It was scientists in 1922, Canada, observing the behaviour of ants being attracted to the sugar in urine that led to the discovery that the pancreas was involved in blood sugar levels.
Types of diabetes mellitus
There are two main types of diabetes:
- Type 1
- Type 2
Type 1 Diabetes
The body's immune system - for some reason not yet known - destroys the specialised cells found in the pancreas, that produce the hormone insulin. No insulin goes into the blood stream to control the blood glucose levels, therefore the amount of this sugar begins to rise. This can seriously affect a person's health.
This form of diabetes normally develops in younger people - often when they are teenagers - up to the age of about 40. However, children can also develop type 1 diabetes. With type 1 the person has to take insulin for the remainder of their life as well as making some life-style adjustments such as diet.
Type 2 diabetes
With this form of diabetes the pancreas - the organ that produces insulin - does usually produce insulin, but not enough to properly control glucose levels. With some diabetics its the body cells that are unable to react appropriately to the insulin the pancreas produces. Type 2 diabetes is much more common than type 1 - according to NHS UK, about 90% of adults with diabetes have type 2.
It is often possible to control type 2 diabetes with changes in your diet and nothing else. However, type 2 does tend to be progressive and eventually some form of medication is usually required to help control the condition. The majority of people only require tablets and not insulin injections, however with a few people insulin may be required at sometime in the future.
Type 2 diabetes is frequently found in people who have become obese and is sometimes called 'maturity-onset' diabetes as it tends to affect older adults. However, according to WHO (World Health Organisation) in recent years, there has been a worrying trend of increasing numbers of children being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes - this was once a rare occurrence.
In addition there are also a number of medical terms specifically associated with diabetes. Below are some of the most common.
- Hyperglycaemia This means high blood suger - hyper = high; glycaemia = glucose. An alternative spelling is - hyperglycemia.
- Hypoglycaemia This means low blood sugar - hypo = low; glycaemia = glucose. An alternative spelling for this term is hypoglycemia.
- Acidosis This happens when too much acid builds up in the body usually when there is a build up of ketones.
- Ketoacidosis This is a very serious condition and potentially fatal. If the body is unable to use glucose as a source of energy - usually due to a problem with insulin as in diabetes - then it will use an alternative in order to get energy into the cells. The alternative is fat but during the break down process, acids are produced called ketones. The body tries to get rid of the ketones by passing a large volume of urine but this can lead to dehydration. In addition the ketones continue to increase and may begin to cause toxic reactions if not treated.
- Polydipsia This is one of the main sypmptoms of diabetes and means having an excessive thirst. 'Poly' means many/multiple. Dipsisa comes from the Greek language and means a 'condition of thirst'.
- Polyphagia This is another possible symptom of diabetes. When the body cells don't get enough energy - due to a problem with insulin and glucose not being able to get into the body cells - then the feelings of hunger are triggered. The person may take in more food, but until their insulin problem is solved, the body cannot get energy from the food, so the hunger cycle continues. Poly means meany/multiple and phagia comes from the Greek language and means 'eating or swallowing'.
- Polyuria This is one of the most common symptoms of diabetes and means an excessive amount of urine being passed. This is usually due to high glucose levels in the blood that the body tries to reduce by eliminating the excess sugar through urine. Poly means many/multiple and uria means a condition of or relating to the urine.
- Glycosuria - this is sugar being present in the urine and is another of the common indicators of diabetes. The word itself is made up of two parts. Glycos means glucose/sugar and uria means a conditon of or relating to urine.
Did you know?
According to the World Health Organisation there is a diabetic epidemic. This is being caused by the growing number of people who are overweight, obese and not taking enough physical exercise.
Signs and symptoms of diabetes
According to one of the main support web sites for diabetes in the UK - diabetes.co.uk - there are a number of signs that will show when type 1 diabetes has developed:
- Polydipsia - a constant thirst
- Polyuria - passing urine in large amounts and frequently
- Polyphagia - feeling continually hungry
- Weight loss
- Vision is blurred
- Genital itching and/or recurrent bouts of thrush
- Scratches or other wounds are very slow to heal and skin infections may also develop
- In some cases cramping of the muscles may occur
- Some people may experience hyperventilation - breathing very quickly
All or some of these symptoms normally develop very quickly - over a couple of weeks or even a few days.
If you or a person you know has the above symptoms and in addition the following indications arise then seek emergency help immediately:
- Stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting
- High Temperature
- Drastic loss of weight
- Strong breath smell of acetone - like nail polish/varnish
These signs could be caused by the development of ketoacidosis and needs immediate medical treatment. It is important to watch out for these signs as about 1 in 4 people who have newly developed type 1 diabetes experience ketoacidosis.
Type 2 diabetes - signs and symptoms:
A number of people actually have this form of diabetes for quite some time before they are diagnosed with type 2. This is because the symptoms build up very slowly usually over a number of years and often are not recognised. According to medical site, Diabetes UK, there are probably around 850,000 adults who have type 2 diabetes without realising it. Not only that, but catching type 2 diabetes as early as possible prevents further damage to the cells that produce insulin. This will help in either preventing or significantly delaying the need for eventually having to use insulin.
In addition the indications that type 2 is present can be slightly different from the more serious form of type 1 diabetes:
- Lethargy and fatigue especially after eating a meal
- Feeling hungry often - this can also be feeling hungry not long after eating
- Loss of weight suddenly and/or loss of muscle mass
- Blurred vision
- Thirsty often
- Urinating often especially overnight
- Genital itching and general skin itching, as well as the development of skin problems such as psoriasis
- Frequent thrush infections
- Wounds are very slow to heal
For many people the signs of type 2 diabetes are often more noticeable after eating a meal.
I hope this hub has been useful for people who are concerned about diabetes or for those who are simply interested. However, as always, the hub is for information only and not to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice and guidance.
In addition to the information in this hub, I would recommend having a read of an excellent hub written by tonymead60 about a new drug called 'Byetta' being used to control Type 2 Diabetes and is a very interesting medication.