Diabetes is a serious disease of the blood characterized by excessive glucose levels. This can happen when the body does not produce enough of the hormone insulin. Insulin converts the blood’s glucose into energy within other body cells. Anyone can develop this condition, but some people are more susceptible to it than others.
There are two main types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. Type 1 is known as insulin dependent diabetes. With this type, the body produces only a small amount of insulin or none at all.
Treatment for type 1 is required for the rest of the affected person’s life. Glucose levels must be regularly monitored in order to check for any complications. It usually appears during the teenage years or before the age of 40.
Type 2 diabetes is known as non-insulin dependent diabetes. It typically appears after the age of 40. It may occur because the body does not produce enough insulin, or because the insulin that is produced is not used properly. Type 2 often affects obese people.
About 1 in 20 women also develop type 2 during pregnancy. Their bodies have very high levels of blood glucose, and there may not be enough insulin produced to absorb the glucose. The condition usually disappears once the baby is born. Some women who develop diabetes during pregnancy have recurrences in later life.
The symptoms of both types of diabetes are very similar. Sufferers frequently feel thirsty and urinate a lot. They may also feel very lethargic and suffer from excessive weight loss. Genital itching and infections such as thrush may result from excessive sugar levels in the urine. Excessive urination can also damage the kidneys and may, over time, result in kidney failure.
The symptoms of type 1 may occur very quickly, lasting only a few weeks or even days. If the glucose levels in the blood are too high or too low, then a hyperglycemic attack can occur. This may happen if a diabetic takes a dose of insulin that is either too high or too low. If not treated, the extreme result of a hyperglycemic attack is death.
Some people with type 2 have no symptoms at all. However, treatment is still necessary in order to avoid further complications. The symptoms can last for weeks or months.
High risk factors for this condition include being overweight and failing to take regular exercise or to stick to a healthy diet. Type 2 diabetes may also be hereditary. People of Asian, Afro-Caribbean, and Middle Eastern descent are also at a higher risk for this condition, as are those with high blood cholesterol levels.