Understanding Diabetes: Types, Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

This chronic disease, which currently affects more than 400 million people, continues to progress worldwide. Diabetes develops when the body is no longer able to produce insulin, or fails to use it normally. those people affected by this pathology are thus exposed to certain complications, such as an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, visual disturbances, etc. What is diabetes, what are the first signs, how to treat it? 

What is diabetes : rigorous definition


 

There are two main types of diabetes, which are characterized  by insulin dysfunction. This famous hormone, essential for the proper functioning of cells, regulates the level of glucose in the blood. In case of diabetes, the glucose (provided by the sugar present in the diet) will be poorly assimilated, the body not being able to use these sugars normally. This will result in hyperglycemia: the level of glucose in the blood is too high. This unstable blood sugar causes imbalances, responsible for serious disorders throughout the body.

To check for the presence of diabetes in a patient, a blood glucose test is carried out in the laboratory: the pathology is confirmed if the blood sugar level is at least 1.26g/l, after two samples taken on an empty stomach. With a result of at least 2g/l, whatever the time of day, the person is diabetic.

If no cause clearly explains type 1 diabetes, several avenues are mentioned for type 2 diabetes: poor diet is the first cause, aggravated by a sedentary lifestyle and genetic predispositions.

Today, about 38% of diabetics are undiagnosed in Europe. Unbalanced diet, overweight, harmful environment… Our way of life is pointed out, and the emphasis is on better communication concerning lifestyle to preserve one’s health.

Know the different types of diabetes:


 

Type 1 type 2 or gestational diabetes: these are the 3 variants of the disease that we distinguish today. The basic problem remains the same: there is too much sugar in the blood. On the other hand, each type has its own specificities:

  • Type 1:
    Concerning less than 10% of cases, it develops mainly in children. Their body does not produce enough insulin, due to an autoimmune reaction that destroys certain cells in the pancreas. However, the latter remains partly functional: type 1 diabetes therefore does not cause symptoms at the start of the disease, then the signs appear suddenly when approximately 80% of the cells have disappeared.
  • Type 2:
    Mainly affecting adults, type 2 concerns 9 out of 10 cases. Here, the body does not use the insulin it produces correctly. The body gradually becomes resistant to insulin, and several years can pass between the first signs of hyperglycemia and the confirmation of the diagnosis. Still on the rise in many countries, type 2 diabetes is linked to the lifestyle of Westerners and demographic trends (aging populations).
  • Gestational: This is a temporary hyperglycemia, which appears during pregnancy. This affects about 1 in 10 women, most often in the 2nd or 3rd trimester of pregnancy, when insulin needs increase. A blood sugar test carried out at the beginning of pregnancy makes it possible to make an inventory. In the vast majority of cases, gestational diabetes disappears after delivery. On the other hand, the risk of developing the disease later is increased.

What are the symptoms of diabetes ?


Type 1 diabetes is usually revealed following the sudden onset of symptoms. In contrast, type 2 diabetes is often detected by chance. The common symptoms found are:

  • A more frequent need to urinate, day and night;
  • An increase in thirst;
  • An appetite that increases but a body weight that decreases;
  • Tiredness, drowsiness;
  • Impaired, blurred vision.
    Other symptoms can alert, such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain or a characteristic breath, with a fruity but unpleasant odor. The evolution of untreated diabetes leads to complications, which can have many consequences on all parts of the body: the kidneys, the heart, the nervous system, the eyes, etc.

There is thus an increased risk of kidney failure, myocardial infarction, stroke or blindness. Over time, high blood sugar damages small blood vessels, which affects many organs. Lesions of the foot or leg, usually harmless, can thus take on worrying proportions because of diabetes: healing is slowed down, and late treatment can cause gangrene and require amputation. If this case is extreme, the daily risks should not be neglected and it is necessary to adapt your lifestyle.

Can diabetes be cured?


The treatments differ according to the type concerned:

Drug treatments:
Type 1 diabetes is treated with insulin injections, daily and for life. The goal is to control blood sugar by regularly providing insulin that the body no longer provides.

Type 2 diabetes will be treated with oral medications. The attending physician prescribes these anti-diabetic drugs on a case-by-case basis, when neither diet nor exercise can maintain normal sugar levels.

Non-drug solutions:
It is a question of adapting your lifestyle in order to anticipate complications. A balanced diet and regular sports activity remain the keys to preventing the insidious progression of diabetes. Quitting smoking is of course essential in the prevention of the disease.

To date, there is no treatment that can cure type 1 diabetes, but there are cases of remission for type 2: a very strict diet would regain control of blood sugar, but this method does not tolerate any deviation and imposes restrictive rules of life, under penalty of favoring the return of the disease. A correct lifestyle therefore remains the best weapon against this pathology.