What is Diabetes?
India is the country with the most people with diabetes, with a current figure of 50.8 million, followed by China with 43.2 million *
Diabetes is a condition which occurs as a result of problems with the production and supply of insulin in the body. Most of the food we eat is turned into glucose, a form of sugar. We use glucose as a source of energy to provide power for our muscles and other tissues. Our bodies transport glucose in our blood to muscles and tissues. In order for our muscles and other tissues to absorb glucose from our blood, we need a hormone called insulin. Without insulin, our bodies cannot obtain the necessary energy from our food.
Insulin is made in a gland behind the stomach called the pancreas. It is released by cells called beta cells in the pancreas. Insulin allows the entry of sugar from the blood into the cells and thus becomes necessary for the body to be able to use glucose for energy. When we eat food, the body breaks down all of the sugars and starches into glucose, which is then used for energy.
When a person has diabetes, either their pancreas does not produce the insulin they need, or the body cannot use its natural insulin effectively. Thus, in diabetes when the glucose builds up in the blood instead of going into cells, it can cause following problems: the cells may be starved for energy and over time, high blood glucose levels may cause damage to eyes, kidneys, nerves or heart.
- Frequent urination
- Excessive thirst
- Extreme hunger
- Unusual weight loss
- Increased fatigue
- Blurry vision
* International Diabetes Federation, Press Release, Oct 19, 2009
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Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is sometimes called insulin-dependent, immune-mediated or juvenile-onset diabetes. It is caused by an auto-immune reaction where the body's defence system attacks the insulin-producing cells. The reason why this occurs is not fully understood. People with type 1 diabetes produce very little or no insulin. The disease can affect people of any age, but usually occurs in children or young adults. People with this form of diabetes need injections of insulin every day in order to control the levels of glucose in their blood.
Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children or young adults, although it can occur at any age. Approximately 5-10 % of all people with diabetes are diagnosed with Type 1.
The onset of type 1 diabetes is often sudden and can include the following symptoms:
- Abnormal thirst and a dry mouth
- Frequent urination
- Extreme tiredness/lack of energy
- Sudden weight loss
- Slow-healing wounds
- Recurrent infections
- Blurred vision
Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body's immune system destroys the beta cells found in the pancreas-the cells that create insulin. As a result, the body makes very little or no insulin of its own.
A person with type 1 diabetes supplies their body with insulin in one of the following ways:
- Insulin pump
- Insulin pen
- Insulin injections with a syringe
Insulin therapy along with following a healthy meal-plan, regular physical activity and frequent blood glucose testing are important in the management of type 1 diabetes.