Introduction to Diabetes
Depending on the type of diabetes, there are many causes of diabetes. Type 1 is associated with an autoimmune reaction where the body attacks itself, destroying insulin cells which are responsible for regulating blood sugar levels. This can be triggered by many things such as toxins or infection. There is also a genetic component which makes certain people more susceptible to diabetes.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a disorder of your body’s ability to regulate the level of glucose (sugar) that is in your blood. There are two types of diabetes, type 1 and type 2. Type 1 requires you to start on insulin immediately as there are no reserves left in the body, whereas type 2 can be managed with other medications first, to try and slow or even reverse the dysfunction in sugar regulation.
This condition is very common and affects people of all ages. Type 1 is more common in younger people, whereas type 2 is more common as you get older. There are many risk factors which increase your chances of developing diabetes and your endocrinologist can discuss these risks and how to manage them.
You will visit your doctor at the start of your diagnosis, and also, because diabetes is a chronic condition, patients check up with their doctors regarding disease management for many years in the future.
What are the symptoms of Diabetes?
Depending on the type of diabetes, your symptoms can vary. Common presentations include, weight loss, unquenchable thirst, going the toilet very regularly, vision problems, collapse, recurrent infections and specific types of infections. If you experience any of these symptoms, your doctor can perform a simple blood test to detect the levels of sugar in your blood. If they are within diabetic limits, further tests will be performed.
As diabetes progresses, you may develop symptoms as a result of having the disease for a long time. These include problems with your blood vessels, nerves and certain parts of your body, such as your kidneys and eyes. Your endocrinologist can monitor this and provide regular check ups and tests, to prevent and slow further progression through changes to lifestyle and close monitoring of blood sugar levels.
How is Diabetes treated?
The treatment for diabetes depends on the cause, type and severity of the disease. Doctors use the results of various tests to decide on a management plan.
There are many drugs that are commonly prescribed. Type 2 diabetes is initially treated with medications to try and improve the function of the less functional pancreas, to encourage it to work harder at regulating blood sugar.
Type 1 diabetes is primarily treated with insulin as there is no insulin producing cells left that we could encourage to work harder. The body therefore has no insulin left and hence, it needs to be replaced. Eventually, type 2 diabetes patients may progress to this insulin dependant stage.
Your doctors will manage your medications and can change them if your experience any side effects or if they are not effective in controlling your diabetes.
A multidisciplinary approach is important in diabetes and you may be referred to other specialists to monitor parts of the body which can suffer complications of diabetes, for example; kidneys, eyes, blood vessels and nerves. Podiatrists may be required in the later stages of the disease to prevent and manage diabetic foot disease and its complications.
Your doctor will provide regular check-ups and offer advice on lifestyle changes, which can improve outcomes.