Diabetes is fast becoming very common in society and is very frequently heard of. There is always someone you know that is suffering from this condition. The main reason behind acquiring diabetes is genetic but environmental factors can also play a big role.

And these are overeating, unhealthy eating habits and low activity level which leads to obesity and ultimately to diabetes. In the Gulf around 20%* of adults suffer from Diabetes and the problem is on the rise.

Diabetes is a chronic disease characterised by elevated blood glucose concentrations that can contribute to other serious health consequences. In other words, it is an example of the body’s abnormal handling of glucose, leading to kidney, eyes, and nerve problems, blood vessel and tissue damage. Diabetes is one of the top ten killers in adults worldwide.

What are its types?

Diabetes mellitus, the most common type of diabetes, occurs in two main forms - Type 1 and type 2.

  • Type 1 Diabetes:  Previously known as Insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus is less common overall. It is more common in childhood or young age. In this type of Diabetes, the immune system attacks the cells of the pancreas that synthesize the hormone insulin. Soon, the pancreas can no longer produce insulin, and after each meal, blood glucose remains elevated even though body tissues are starving for glucose. In this case, insulin shots are needed to assist the cells taking up the needed glucose from the blood.
  • Type 2 Diabetes: The predominant type of Diabetes mellitus (90% of cases), is associated with insulin resistance i.e. resistance of body cells to insulin. Insulin may be present in large amounts and it may stimulate cells to take up glucose, but they respond less sensitively than normal. Blood glucose rises too high in type 2 Diabetes which also makes the blood insulin rise which results in the pancreas starting to lose its ability to make insulin. In this case, a preferred therapy is to take a drug that stimulates the pancreas to make insulin or one that improves the uptake of glucose by the cells.

Type 2 Diabetes tends to occur later in life, but nowadays overweight children and adults are being diagnosed with the condition especially because of weight gain, obesity and excess abdominal fat.

Comparison between type 1 and 2 Diabetes in the table below:

  Type 1 Diabetes Type 2 Diabetes
Age of onset Childhood or young adulthood Mainly adulthood,  sometimes at an early age
Body cells Responsive to insulin action Resistant to insulin action
Body fatness/weight Generally low to average Generally high
Natural Insulin Pancreas makes too little or none Pancreas makes enough or too much
Insulin shots required Yes Possibly
Insulin-stimulating drugs or diabetes pills No Yes
Severity of symptoms Relatively severe, apparent on diagnosis Relatively mild; few or none may be present on diagnosis

 

Beware of the warning signs of Diabetes and check your blood if you notice any of the following symptoms:

  • Excessive urination and thirst
  • Weight loss with nausea, weakness, or irritability
  • Cravings for food, especially for sweets
  • Frequent infections of the skin, gums, vagina, or urinary tract
  • Vision disturbances or blurred vision
  • Pain in the legs, feet, or fingers

Good to Remember

Maintaining a healthy body weight and exercising regularly helps reduce the incidence of type 2 Diabetes.

Always remember that the person with diabetes must constantly balance three lifestyle factors – diet, exercise, and medication in order to control his blood glucose level.

Visit your doctor for proper treatment, and dietician in order to provide you with a healthy diet that best suits your needs.*Arab Health, 2006 figure.

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