Diabetes, better known scientifically as diabetes mellitus, is a condition where the body does not produce adequate insulin or the cells in the body are not responding properly to insulin.
Our body’s main fuel is glucose. When a person ingests food, it is broken down into glucose, which is a form of sugar and is distributed to cells equally to be used as energy. The responsibility of distributing the glucose to all the cells of the organs lies with insulin, which is a hormone produced by the pancreas. When this function is improperly performed because the insulin production is inadequate or the insulin absorption by the cells is malfunctioning, the glucose levels in the bloodstream tend to rise. High glucose levels in the blood can cause major problems and damage to the vital organs such as the heart, liver, kidney, eyes, nerves, etc. Research has shown that there are almost 2.9 million people in the UK affected with diabetes. This staggering statistics pinpoint to the fact that our lifestyles are greatly moving towards self-destruction.
There are two main types of diabetes
- Diabetes type1: This type of diabetes is diagnosed when the body’s own immune system becomes a threat to the body. It attacks the pancreatic cells that produce insulin and this results in zero insulin levels in the body. People affected with this type of diabetes will need to take insulin injections for their entire lives. There are no limitations of age with diabetes type 1. Even teenagers can get it in their raw years. Only 10% of diabetic cases fall under this category.
- Diabetes type2: This type of diabetes constitutes about 90% of all diabetic cases. The main feature of this type of diabetic disorder is inadequate insulin production or cell resistance to insulin. This means that the cells are unable to absorb insulin. Obese people are at a very high risk of getting this type of diabetes.
Highlighting complications of diabetes:
Diabetes is a multifaceted disease and an entity in itself. It can cause major complications such as:
- Nerve damage (neuropathy)
- Eye damage (retinopathy)
- Kidney disorders (nephropathy)
- Foot damage and osteoporosis
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Stroke and coronary heart disease
Diabetic neuropathy (diabetic nerve damage)
Diabetic neuropathy affects almost 60% of all diabetics. Our peripheral nerves are responsible for transferring information from all parts of the body to the brain and the spinal cord. When these peripheral nerves are damaged or have received serious injury due to high glucose levels in the blood, the condition is known as diabetic neuropathy.
Neuropathy can be difficult to cope with as it causes tingling, burning, numbness and intense pain waves in the hands and feet. The damaged nerves are incapable of sending accurate signals to the brain and the spinal cord. This results in pain messages being sent at the wrong time or inaccurately. The longest peripheral nerves are the ones that end in our feet. Any damage to the nerves results in our feet getting drastically affected by the condition. Today, 50% of foot amputations are the result of diabetic neuropathy. Diabetics who have been living with diabetes for more than 25 years are at a very high risk of getting diabetic neuropathy.
Diabetic retinopathy (diabetic eye damage)
Another leading diabetic complication that contributes to more than half of blindness cases in USA is diabetic retinopathy. High blood glucose levels cause the retina blood vessels injury. New blood vessels start to grow abnormally in their place and this clouds a person’s vision. Retina is the soft tissue at the back of the eye which is responsible for transferring the images to the brain. A healthy retina is crucial for competent vision power.
Sometimes, the damaged blood vessels also leak fluid and blood into the eyes. This causes serious vision impairment.
Diabetic retinopathy usually affects both the eyes and the damage can hardly ever be undone. All diabetics (type 1 and type 2) are at a serious risk of getting eye damage due to diabetes. The best way to prevent this disease is to have a complete ocular examination at least once a year. Since diabetic retinopathy occurs without any initial symptoms, the disease is not detected until it has reached its damaging state. Controlling your blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels, and blood pressure can certainly help you in saving your vision.
Some symptoms to look out for if you are a diabetic
- Blurred or cloudy vision
- Difficulty in seeing things at night
- Visioning spots in your field of sight
- Seeing a dark circle or an empty spot in your field of vision
Diabetic neuropathy and diabetic retinopathy can considerably be prevented and treated if an ideal lifestyle is adopted. Diabetes is the root cause of many other problems. Controlling your blood sugar levels and remaining vigilant is the key to effective diabetes management. Where diabetes is concerned, prevention can certainly save your life