Diabetes is a group of chronic diseases characterized by the body's inability to regulate blood sugar (or blood glucose). It affects insulin, which is a hormone created by your pancreas to control the amount of sugar in your bloodstream at any given moment. Over time, diabetes can lead to serious damage to the heart, blood vessels, eyes, nerves, kidneys, and/or other organs.
What are the types of Diabetes?
- Type 2 Diabetes: This is the most common type of diabetes and usually is diagnosed in adulthood. It occurs when the body becomes resistant to insulin or doesn't produce enough insulin.
- Type 1 Diabetes: Often appearing in adoslecents, it is a condition in which the immune system destroys insulin-making cells in the pancreas causing the body to produce little to no insulin.
- Gestational Diabetes: Like the name suggests, this is diabetes diagnosed for the first time during pregnancy (gestation). And like other types of diabetes, it affects how the cells use sugar (glucose). Gestational diabetes causes high blood sugar that can affect the pregnancy and the baby's health. Women who have gestational diabetes are more likely to be diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in the future.
Symptoms of Diabetes
It is important to note that often there are NO early symptoms of diabetes, even for gestational diabetes. If any symptoms do occur, they may include; excessive thirst and hunger, frequent urination, fatigue, weight loss or blurred vision. Many primary care physicians recommend regular medical checks in order to quickly identify a diabetes diagnosis.
Diagnosis of Diabetes
Diabetes is diagnosed by investigating the glucose level in a blood test. Primarily, there are three tests that can measure the blood sugar level: fasting blood sugar (FBS), random blood sugar test, and A1c test.
- Fasting Blood Sugar test: This is best done in the morning after an eight hour fast (nothing to eat or drink except sips of water) to measure the blood sugar level at that time.
- Random Blood Sugar test: This test can be done any time without the need to fast and also measures the blood sugar level at that time.
- A1c test: This is also called HbA1C or glycated hemoglobin test. It provides your average blood sugar level over the past two to three months. This test measures the amount of glucose attached to hemoglobin, the protein in your red blood cells that carries oxygen. You don’t need to fast before this test.
Treating and Managing Diabetes
Even though diabetes cannot be cured, it can be treated and managed. Managing diabetes depends largely on the type of diabetes one has, how well controlled their blood glucose level is, and whether or not they have other existing health conditions.
For Type 1 diabetes, one would have to take insulin everyday as the pancreas is unable to produce it.
Type 2 diabetes treatment may include taking medication(s) and making lifestyle adjustments, such as eating healthier meals, losing weight (for obese persons), and becoming more physically active.
For gestational diabetes, treatment options would depend on how high the blood sugar level is. If it is not too high, modifying one's diet and routine exercise may be sufficient to regulate it. And if it is too high, medication and insulin shots may be required.
Can Diabetes be Prevented?
Although Type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented because it is an autoimmune disease, meaning your body attacks itself, Type 2 diabetes can be prevented.
Being overweight increases the risk of diabetes. Getting physically active for at least 30 minutes a day and eating a nutrient-rich, balanced diet can help prevent Type 2 diabetes. Stress is also a trigger for many diseases, diabetes included, so learning relaxation techniques and prioritizing good sleep can also help. For people with prediabetes (a high blood sugar level not considered high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes) and other existing conditions that may lead to diabetes, you should see your primary care physician, or seek medication as directed by your healthcare provider.
SentinelX is a membership-based health practice that emphasizes preventive, personalized, and continuous care. A SentinelX health check includes screening tests for diabetes and a dedicated Care Team that can help you lower your risk for diabetes or help you manage existing diabetes.