What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a serious condition in which the body cannot maintain healthy levels of glucose (or sugar) in the blood.
Characterised by high levels of glucose in the blood, diabetes is caused by the body’s inability to produce insulin, an essential hormone that converts food into energy, or by the body not being able to use insulin effectively.
What are the different types of diabetes?
The three main types of diabetes are Type 2 diabetes (largely preventable, usually associated with lifestyle factors), Type 1 diabetes (a lifelong autoimmune disease with onset typically in childhood), and Gestational diabetes (in females during pregnancy).
While the signs and symptoms may differ between types, the potential implications are similar and can be very serious. Every type of diabetes is complex and if not managed appropriately, can impact the whole body over time. Complications may include heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, limb amputation, depression, anxiety and blindness.
Unfortunately there is no cure for diabetes currently; however, it is possible to lessen the impact on your life with daily management and self-care to help reduce the risk of long-term implications and maintain a good quality of life.
How does diabetes affect the body?
To gain a better appreciation of how diabetes affects the body, it’s helpful to firstly understand what foods our bodies get glucose from, plus how glucose is stored and used by the body.
Carbohydrate-rich foods such as breads and cereals; fruits, vegetables and legumes; milk and yoghurt can be converted into glucose. For the human body to function effectively, it must convert glucose from food into energy.
In people with diabetes, insulin is no longer produced by the body, or only produced in small quantities. This means that when the body breaks down carbohydrates into glucose, the glucose doesn’t get moved into the cells where it is converted into energy. Instead glucose remains in the blood leading to abnormally high blood glucose levels. High blood sugar levels can lead to life-threatening consequences without suitable treatment or management.
Similarly, having low blood sugar levels (hypoglycaemia) can be equally dangerous and if left untreated may result in coma. Eating or drinking something sugary will help to restore normal glucose levels and is a process that may need to be repeated once an individual’s blood glucose level has been checked.