What is diabetes?

Diabetes, also known as Diabetes Mellitus, is a condition where one’s blood glucose levels are higher than normal.

Glucose is the type of sugar that exists in our blood and is the main source of energy for our body. It is derived from carbohydrates which are found in foods such as rice, noodles, bread, and sugar.

People with diabetes have high levels of glucose in their blood because their bodies are unable to process the glucose. This can be due to a lack of insulin being produced by the body (Type 1 diabetes) or their body cells having developed a resistance to insulin (Type 2 diabetes).

diabetes mellitus

What are the different types of diabetes?

There are two major types of diabetes: Type 1 diabetes and Type 2 diabetes. The table below shows the differences between the two types of diabetes:

Type 1 Diabetes Type 2 Diabetes

What happens in the body

In this condition, the pancreas makes little or no insulin.

Without enough insulin, glucose builds up in the bloodstream instead of going into the cells. This buildup of glucose in the blood is called hyperglycemia. Over time, high glucose levels can affect the nerves and blood vessels and damage many organs and tissues of the body.

People with type 2 diabetes can produce insulin, but their bodies are unable to use it to break down glucose.

Who does it affect

Occurs in individuals at any age, although it is most often diagnosed in children or young adults.

Individuals over 45 years old have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. However, children or young adults who have a family history of diabetes, or obese may also develop this condition.

How can it be controlled

Lifelong insulin injections are required to ensure that body is able to process glucose effectively.

It can be controlled with a healthy diet and regular exercise, but most patients also need to take medication.

Symptoms of diabetes

There are many different symptoms of diabetes, some of which include:

  • Frequent urination
  • Excessive thirst
  • Weight loss despite eating well
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Sores that don’t heal
  • Blurry vision

It is advisable for those who experience such symptoms to visit a doctor to get your blood sugar tested. Individuals aged 40 years old and above are recommended to screen for diabetes at least once a year. 

Complications of diabetes

Uncontrolled diabetes can cause the blood sugar to fluctuate between very high (hyperglycaemia) and very low (hypoglycaemia). Both situations can cause a diabetic to become very sick very quickly and even go into a coma.

Other long-term complications of diabetes include:

  • Coronary heart diseases such as angina or heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Eye disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Foot diseases such as numbness, ulcers and even gangrene
  • Nerve disease which can lead to problems such as impotence and problems in movement of bowels

Diabetes (Type 2) is also part of a group of chronic conditions known as metabolic syndrome, which includes high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and obesity. It is important to keep diabetes under control, so as to maintain your quality of life and reduce the risk of complications arising, such as heart diseases, strokes, kidney failure and blindness. 

How can you prevent diabetes?

There are many ways to prevent diabetes, ranging from lifestyle to diet changes:

  • Diet

Eating a healthy and balanced diet will help to keep your blood sugar levels under control. It will also keep your weight at a healthy level, reducing your risk of obesity, which is linked to diabetes.

  • Exercise

Regular exercise is important for diabetes control and for a healthy lifestyle in general. Exercise allows you to control your weight and help keep your heart healthy as well, which helps to reduce the risk of other health complications in future.

  • Stop smoking

Smoking is bad for health, and especially dangerous for diabetes patients, as it results in the narrowing of blood vessels already caused by diabetes. This can lead to reduced blood flow to organs and result in serious complications.   

  • Regular screening for risk factors

Early detection is crucial in fighting chronic conditions such as diabetes. Detecting risk factors early can help to combat the problem before it becomes more serious.

Screenings for height and weight, waist circumference, blood pressure should be done annually for anyone older than 18 years old. Yearly screenings for glucose and cholesterol are also important for individuals above 40 years old.  Screenings should start earlier if there are any risk factors such as obesity or family history of diabetes.

While diet and lifestyle modifications may help to prevent diabetes, medication may be required should one’s diabetic condition worsen.

Using MediSave under Chronic Disease Management Programme (CDMP) for diabetes treatment

Under the Chronic Disease Management Programme (CDMP) , individuals can use Medisave to alleviate the treatment costs of chronic conditions such as diabetes. Click here to learn more.

Should you require diabetes treatment and advice on how to keep your diabetes under control, visit our doctors at Healthway Medical GP clinics islandwide.