Introduction to diabetes
Diabetes is a term that refers to a group of metabolic diseases which are characterized by elevated levels of blood sugar. Most of what a person eats is broken down into glucose (a form of sugar), which is a principal source of energy that the body has. Normally, blood glucose levels are tightly controlled by insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas. Insulin lowers the blood glucose level by letting the sugar enter the body’s cells. With people with diabetes the quantity of glucose in the blood is too elevated (hyperglycemia). This is because the body either does not produce enough insulin, produces no insulin, or has cells that do not respond properly to the insulin the pancreas produces. This results in too much glucose building up in the blood. This excess will eventually pass out of the body in urine. So, even though the blood has plenty of glucose, the cells are not getting it, even though they need it as the source of energy and growth.
There are three types of diabetes, and they all have different causes. With type 1 diabetes, the immune system attacks and destroys the cells in the pancreas that are in charge of insulin production. The cause of type 2 diabetes is that the cells of one’s body become resistant to the action of insulin. With gestational insulin (which only happens to some pregnant women), the hormones that are produced in order to sustain the pregnancy actually make the cells more resistant to insulin. This may lead to diabetes. There are several risk factors that might increase the risk of a person developing this condition. These are: a sedentary lifestyle, stress, family history of this condition, and weight, etc.
The most common symptoms of diabetes are: extreme hunger and thirst, weight loss that is inexplicable, blurry vision, frequent urination, sores that take longer to heal, frequent infections, fatigue, nausea sometimes accompanied by vomiting, etc.
Diabetes and the Body
Diabetes can affect the body in a number of ways. It has been known to affect these parts in particular:
- Nerves. People with diabetes can develop diabetic neuropathy. Over time, the nerves start to get weaker, and slowly this can cause pain or numbness in some parts of the body. Aside from this, one might feel constipated often, a tingling sensation, and it can interfere with one’s sexual function.
- Eyes. Diabetes may cause several conditions that cause the deterioration of the eyes. These include: cataract, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy. All of these, if untreated, can lead to blindness.
- Brain. This condition may affect the brain, causing slurred speech, headaches, confusion, dizziness, etc. It can also affect memory and lead to complete loss of cognitive function over time. If the arteries harden, this may lead to a stroke.
- Kidneys. Diabetic nephropathy, which is one of the results of diabetes, can lead to kidney damage and kidney disease.