Medical App & Medical Advice with Hello Doctor

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic (lifelong) disease which presents as high levels of sugar in the blood. This is either because there isn’t enough insulin being produced, or because the body’s cells don’t respond properly to insulin, or both.

What Causes Diabetes?

Insulin is a hormone which is produced by the pancreas, and which is responsible for controlling blood sugar. People who are diagnosed with diabetes have high blood sugar because their body cannot convert sugar into fat, liver, and muscle cells to be stored for energy. This is due to:

  • The pancreas not making enough insulin
  • The cells not responding normally to insulin
  • Both of the above

There are two major types of diabetes, Type 1 and Type 2.
Type 1 diabetes is most often diagnosed in children, teens, or young adults, but it can occur at any age. With type 1 diabetes, the body makes little or no insulin. The exact cause of type 1 diabetes is unknown, and daily insulin injections are needed.

Type 2 diabetes occurs most often in adulthood, and makes up the majority of diagnosed cases of diabetes. While it mostly affects adults, more teens and young children are also being diagnosed, due to high obesity rates. Many people with type 2 diabetes don’t even know they have it.

Gestational diabetes only affects pregnant women who don’t already have diabetes. It occurs when high blood sugar develops at any time during pregnancy.

What are the Symptoms of Diabetes?

High blood sugar levels can cause several symptoms, including:

  • Excess thirst
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Hunger
  • Urinating often
  • Weight loss

Because type 2 diabetes develops slowly, some people with high blood sugar have no symptoms. Symptoms of type 1 diabetes develop over a short period of time however, and people may already be very sick by the time they’re diagnosed.

How is Diabetes Treated?

If type 2 diabetes is diagnosed early, it’s possible to reverse the disease by making positive lifestyle changes. In some cases, type 2 diabetes can be cured with weight-loss surgery.

With type 1 diabetes there is no cure, but it can be managed with medication and lifestyle changes. Treating both type 1 and type 2 diabetes involves diet, medication, and exercise to control blood sugar levels and prevent symptoms and complications. Getting better control over your blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure levels helps reduce the risk of kidney disease, eye disease, nervous system disease, heart attack, and stroke.

Need to know

For Diabetes advice and support check out Diabetes South Africa  or chat to one of our doctors for advice.