The Complications of Diabetes and How to Manage Them

Diabetes is a metabolic disorder characterised by high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) resulting from defects in insulin production, insulin action, or both. Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas and plays a key role in controlling blood glucose levels and allowing cells to use glucose normally.

Prevalence of Diabetes

According to World Health Organization (WHO), the number of people with diabetes is 422 million in 2014, compared to 108 million in 1980. The prevalence of diabetes has been rising in middle and low-income countries more than high-income countries.

Diabetes is responsible for 1.6 million deaths annually. Additionally, over 60% of diabetic patients live in Asia, with nearly half in China and India alone.

The reported prevalence of diabetes in Malaysia was 11.6% in 2006, 15.2% in 2011, and 22.9% in 2013.

According to the 2010 Singapore National Health Survey, diabetes prevalence increased from 8.6% in 1992 to 11.3% in 2010. It is predicted that Singapore will have had half a million people with diabetes by 2020 and that this will have risen to 1 million by 2050.

Types and Diagnosis of Diabetes

There are three main types of diabetes: type 1 diabetes (inadequate insulin production), type 2 diabetes (insulin resistance), and gestational diabetes (during pregnancy).

The typical symptoms of diabetes include frequent urination, hunger and fatigue, dry mouth, itchy skin, blurred vision, feeling very thirsty, weight loss, numbness in the hands or feet, and slow healing bruises. However, some type 2 diabetic patients have mild symptoms so that they can go unnoticed. If you have any one of the previous symptoms, you should visit your doctor as soon as possible to test your glucose level by: fasting blood sugar test, two-hour postprandial blood sugar test, and glycated hemoglobin test.

Type 1 diabetes occurs when your immunity incorrectly damages specific insulin-producing cells in your pancreas. It was formerly known as juvenile diabetes since it is mostly seen in children and young adults. According to ADA, nearly five percent of people with diabetes have type 1 diabetes. It seems that lifestyle factors do not play a role in developing this type of diabetes, whereas both genetic and environmental components may play the leading roles.

Type 2 diabetes is considered the most common type of diabetes. If you suffer from type 2 diabetes, this means that your body cannot use insulin properly. This is a medical condition known as insulin resistance. At first, your pancreas will synthesise more insulin to overcome insulin resistance. But with time your body will not be able to make enough insulin to maintain your blood sugar in the normal range. Although the exact cause of type 2 diabetes is not well understood, it is strongly believed that contributing factors such as genetics, physical inactivity, and being overweight play a vital role in developing type 2 diabetes.

Most type 2 diabetic patients have prediabetes first, a state in which your blood glucose is above normal but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes.  Prediabetes puts you at a higher risk for having type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy. If your doctor tells you that you have gestational diabetes, you are at increased risk of developing diabetes after giving birth. It is vital to follow your doctor’s advice to keep your blood glucose in the normal range, so both you and your baby remain healthy.

Diabetes Risk factors

People with the following characteristics are more prone to developing type 2 diabetes:

  • Obesity
  • Those with Impaired glucose tolerance or prediabetes, particularly if you do not engage in physical exercise, or you do not follow a low carbohydrate diet.
  • Some ethnic groups such as the chinese and indians
  • Those who had gestational diabetes
  • Those who live a sedentary lifestyle
  • Positive family history
  • Women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

What Are The Complications of Diabetes?

Uncontrolled diabetes can be disastrous to your health. High glucose level damages our small arteries and can affect almost every organ in our body. The list of potential complications is very long, and commonly seen in those diabetics with poor sugar control, and who are not compliant to dietary and lifestyle recommendations from the doctor.

Common complications are heart disease, stroke, neuropathy, kidney failure, blurred vision, and decreased immunity.

How Can I Manage Diabetes?

The primary aim of treatment of diabetes is to maintain blood sugar levels within the normal range. This will definitely help prevent or delay complications so you can live a healthier life.

Practicing physical exercise, eating healthy food, and limiting the amount of carbohydrates are considered as the pillars of the treatment. Active lifestyle has an excellent effect in reducing insulin resistance. Even 30 minutes of daily light exercise is helpful. Abstain from alcohol as it affects your blood sugar. Quit smoking to help lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.

It is vital to test your blood sugar regularly to keep track and improve efforts in compliance to management. Visit your doctor regularly to help you stay on the right path with your treatment

It may be necessary to be on medications or insulin injection in order to maintain glucose levels in acceptable levels. The cost and hassle of daily treatment is more than compensated for in preventing or delaying life-threatening complications.

If you’re interested in learning more about glucose and how to maintain healthy levels of it, read on more about it in our biomarker post here!

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