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Diabetes Basics

The Basics Regarding Diabetes


The Basics Regarding Diabetes

What exactly is diabetes? What are the different kinds of diabetes?

Diabetes is a group of disorders characterised by issues with the insulin hormone. Normally, the pancreas (an organ located beneath the stomach) releases insulin to aid in the storage and use of sugar and fat from the diet. When one of the following occurs, diabetes develops:

  • When the pancreas is unable to generate any insulin.
  • When the pancreas generates only a small amount of insulin.
  • Insulin resistance occurs when the body does not respond effectively to insulin.

In the United Kingdom, diabetes affects around 4.9 million individuals, with an additional 13.6 million people at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. There is currently no cure. To be healthy, people with diabetes must manage their disease.

Insulin’s Function in Diabetes

It helps to understand how the body uses food for energy to comprehend why insulin is vital in diabetes. There are millions of cells in your body. These cells require relatively simple food to produce energy. Much of everything you eat or drink is converted down into a simple sugar called “glucose.” The glucose is then transferred to your body’s cells via the bloodstream, where it can be utilised to give some of the energy required for daily tasks.

Insulin controls the amount of glucose in your bloodstream. The pancreas constantly releases little amounts of insulin. The pancreas releases more insulin when the amount of glucose in your blood reaches a certain level, allowing more glucose to enter the cells. The glucose levels in your blood (blood glucose levels) drop as a result.

To maintain your blood glucose levels from dropping too low (hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar), your body sends you a hunger signal and releases glucose from the liver’s store.

People with diabetes either do not produce insulin or their cells are resistant to insulin, resulting in high blood sugar levels. After an overnight fast, diabetes is defined as a blood glucose level of 126 milligrammes per deciliter (mg/dL) or above (not eating anything).

Types of Diabetes


According to a new analysis issued by Diabetes UK, an estimated seven million people in the UK have prediabetes, an underdiagnosed disease that makes them up to 15 times more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes.

Prediabetes normally has no symptoms, yet it is virtually always present before type 2 diabetes occurs. However, even if a person has simply prediabetes, complications connected with diabetes, such as heart disease, can develop.

Consult a doctor to see if you require a prediabetes test. You might be able to avoid type 2 diabetes and its complications, such as heart disease.

The immune system destroys the pancreas’ insulin-producing cells (called beta cells), resulting in type 1 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes patients do not manufacture insulin and must rely on insulin injections to maintain blood sugar control.

Type 1 diabetes is more common in those under the age of 20, but it can strike anyone at any age.

Persons with type 2 diabetes produce insulin, unlike people with type 1 diabetes. However, the insulin produced by their pancreas is either insufficient or the body is resistant to it. Glucose cannot enter the body’s cells when there is insufficient insulin or when insulin is not utilised properly.

Kind 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes, affecting almost 18 million people in the United States. Although the majority of these cases may be avoided, it is still the largest cause of diabetes-related complications in adults, including blindness, non-traumatic amputations, and chronic kidney failure needing dialysis. Type 2 diabetes is more common in overweight adults over 40, but it can also strike those who are not overweight. Type 2 diabetes, also known as “adult-onset diabetes,” has become more common in children as a result of the rise in childhood obesity.

Some people with type 2 diabetes can control their weight, eat a healthy diet, and exercise on a regular basis. Others may require insulin injections or a tablet to help their bodies regulate insulin more effectively.

Doctors can often predict the onset of type 2 diabetes before the disease manifests itself. Pre-diabetes is a condition in which a person’s blood sugar levels are higher than usual but not yet high enough to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

Pregnancy triggers gestational diabetes. Insulin’s capacity to operate correctly can be harmed by hormonal changes during pregnancy. Up to 9% of all pregnancies are affected by this illness.

Pregnant women who are over 25 years old, are overweight before pregnancy, have a family history of diabetes, or are Hispanic, black, Native American, or Asian have a higher risk of acquiring gestational diabetes.

During pregnancy, women are tested for gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes increases the risk of complications for both the mother and the unborn child if it is not controlled.

Within six weeks of childbirth, blood sugar levels usually recover to normal. Women who have experienced gestational diabetes, on the other hand, are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life.

What Are the Symptoms of Diabetes?

The severity of diabetes symptoms varies depending on how high your blood sugar is. Some patients, particularly those with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, may not have any symptoms at all. Symptoms of type 1 diabetes tend to appear quickly and are more severe.

The following are some of the indications and symptoms of type 1 diabetes:

  • Increased thirst
  • Increased hunger (especially after eating)
  • Dry mouth
  • Frequent urination
  • Unexplained weight loss (even though you are eating and feel hungry)
  • Fatigue (weak, tired feeling)
  • Blurred vision
  • Laboured, heavy breathing (Kussmaul respirations)
  • Loss of consciousness (rare)

Type 1 diabetes can strike at any age, but it is more common in childhood and adolescence. The most prevalent type of diabetes, type 2, can strike at any age, though it is more common in persons over 40.

Type 2 diabetes symptoms may be similar to those described above. Most of the time, there are no symptoms or rather a slow progression of the aforesaid symptoms. Other signs and symptoms include:

  • Slow-healing sores or cuts
  • Itching of the skin (usually in the vaginal or groin area)
  • Yeast infections
  • Recent weight gain
  • Numbness or tingling of the hands and feet
  • Impotence or erectile dysfunction

There are sometimes no indications of gestational diabetes. You might also notice:

  • More thirst
  • More urination
  • More hunger
  • Blurred vision

Because most pregnant women need to urinate more frequently and feel more hungry, these symptoms do not usually indicate gestational diabetes. However, it is critical to get checked since high blood sugar can harm both you and your baby.


To comprehend diabetes, you must first comprehend how glucose is routinely handled in the human body.

How insulin works

Insulin is a hormone produced by a gland behind and beneath the stomach (pancreas).

  • Insulin is released into the bloodstream by the pancreas.
  • Insulin circulates in your body, allowing sugar to enter your cells.
  • Insulin works by lowering the quantity of sugar in your blood.
  • Insulin release from your pancreas decreases when your blood sugar level drops.

The role of glucose

Glucose a form of sugar is a source of energy for the cells that make up muscles and other tissues.

  • Food and your liver are the two main sources of glucose.
  • Sugar is taken into the bloodstream and then transported to cells by insulin.
  • The liver both stores and produces glucose.
  • When your glucose levels are low, such as when you haven’t eaten in a while, your liver breaks down stored glycogen into glucose to maintain a normal glucose level.

Type 1 Diabetes Cause

It is uncertain what causes type 1 diabetes. What is known is that your immune system, which is generally responsible for fighting harmful bacteria and viruses, assaults and destroys your pancreas’ insulin-producing cells. This results in you having very little or no insulin. Sugar builds up in your bloodstream instead of being delivered to your cells.

Type 1 diabetes is assumed to be caused by a mix of genetic vulnerability and environmental factors, while the exact causes remain unknown. Weight isn’t thought to play a role in type 1 diabetes.

Prediabetes and type 2 diabetes causes

Your cells grow resistant to the action of insulin in prediabetes, which can lead to type 2 diabetes, and your pancreas is unable to create enough insulin to overcome this resistance in type 2 diabetes. Sugar accumulates up in your bloodstream instead of going into your cells, where it is needed for energy.

It’s unclear why this happens, while genetic and environmental variables are thought to play a role in the development of type 2 diabetes. Although being overweight is significantly connected to the development of type 2 diabetes, not everyone who has the disease is obese.

Gestational diabetes

The placenta generates hormones to keep your pregnancy going during pregnancy. These hormones increase insulin resistance in your cells.

Your pancreas normally responds by generating enough additional insulin to overcome resistance. However, your pancreas can’t always keep up. When this happens, too little glucose enters your cells while too much remains in your blood, causing gestational diabetes.


Diabetes problems develop progressively over time. The longer you have diabetes and the less well you control your blood sugar, the more likely you are to have problems. Diabetes problems can become disabling or even life-threatening over time. Complications could include:

Cardiovascular disease

Diabetes significantly raises the risk of coronary artery disease (angina), heart attack, stroke, and arterial narrowing, among other cardiovascular disorders (atherosclerosis). Diabetes makes you more susceptible to heart disease and stroke.

Sugar can harm the walls of the tiny blood arteries also known as capillaries, that nourish your nerves, particularly in your legs. This might result in tingling, numbness, burning, or pain that starts at the tips of the toes or fingers and extends upward.

If left untreated, you may lose sensation in the affected limbs. Damage to digestion-related nerves might result in nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, or constipation. It can cause erectile dysfunction in men.

Kidney damage (nephropathy)

Millions of microscopic blood artery clusters known as glomeruli filter waste from your blood in the kidneys. This delicate filtering system can be harmed by diabetes. Kidney failure or irreversible end-stage kidney disease can result from severe damage, necessitating dialysis or a kidney transplant.

Eye damage (retinopathy)

Diabetic retinopathy causes damage to the blood vessels in the retina, which can lead to blindness. Diabetic diabetes is more likely to have major eye problems such as cataracts and glaucoma.
Foot nerve damage or inadequate blood flow increases the risk of a variety of foot problems. If cuts and blisters are not treated, they can become infected and heal poorly. These infections may lead to amputation of the toe, foot, or leg.

Skin conditions

Diabetes can make you more prone to skin infections, such as bacterial and fungal infections.

Hearing impairment

Diabetes patients are more likely to have hearing issues.
Dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease, is linked to type 2 diabetes. The greater the risk looks to be the worse your blood sugar management is. There are suggestions about how these ailments are linked, but none of them has been proven.


Type 1 and type 2 diabetes patients frequently experience depression symptoms. Diabetes control might be affected by depression.

When to call a doctor

If you or your child suspects they may have diabetes. Contact a doctor if you detect any probable diabetes symptoms. Treatment can begin sooner if the illness is discovered early.

If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes previously. You’ll require close medical monitoring after your diagnosis until your blood sugar levels settle.


Blood sugar monitoring, insulin, and oral medicines may all be used in the treatment of diabetes, depending on the type. Eating a balanced diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and engaging in regular physical activity are all critical aspects of diabetes management.

Treatments for all types of diabetes

Maintaining a healthy weight with a good diet and activity plan is an important element of treating diabetes — and your overall health:

  • Healthy eating. There is no such thing as a diabetes diet, contrary to popular belief. Reduce your intake of saturated fats, processed carbs, and sweets while increasing your intake of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains – foods high in nutrition and fibre but low in fat and calories. It is, in fact, the finest diet for the entire family. Sugary meals are acceptable on occasion, as long as they are included in your meal plan. However, knowing what to eat and how much to eat can be difficult. A certified dietician can assist you in developing a meal plan that is tailored to your specific health objectives, food preferences, and lifestyle. This will very certainly include carbohydrate counting, especially if you have type 1 diabetes or are on insulin.
  • Physical activity. People with diabetes, like everyone else, require frequent aerobic activity. Exercise reduces blood sugar levels by allowing sugar to enter your cells and be used for energy. Exercise also improves insulin sensitivity, meaning your body requires less insulin to deliver sugar to your cells. Obtain your doctor’s permission to work out. Then select activities that you enjoy doing, such as walking, swimming, or riding. The most important thing is to incorporate physical activity into your everyday routine. Aim for at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise or at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity most days of the week. Short bursts of activity, three times a day, might be as short as 10 minutes. If you haven’t been active in a while, begin slowly and gradually increasing your activity level. It’s also a good idea to avoid sitting for too long; if you’ve been sitting for more than 30 minutes, stand up and exercise.

Treatments for type 1 and type 2 diabetes

Insulin injections or the use of an insulin pump are used to treat type 1 diabetes, as are frequent blood sugar checks and carbohydrate counting. Type 2 diabetes is treated with a combination of lifestyle adjustments, blood sugar monitoring, diabetes medicines, insulin, or both.

  • Monitoring your blood sugar. You may check and record your blood sugar up to four times a day, or more frequently if you’re on insulin, depending on your treatment plan. The only way to ensure that your blood sugar level stays within your desired range is to carefully monitor it. People who don’t use insulin for type 2 diabetes check their blood sugar substantially less frequently. People on insulin therapy may also use a continuous glucose monitor to keep track of their blood sugar levels. Although this technology hasn’t totally replaced the glucose metre, it can drastically reduce the number of fingersticks required to check blood sugar and provide valuable information about blood sugar patterns. Blood sugar levels might fluctuate unpredictably even with proper treatment. You’ll learn how your blood sugar levels change in reaction to food, physical activity, medications, sickness, alcohol, stress, and, for women, hormone swings, with the support of your diabetes care team. Your doctor will likely recommend regular A1C testing in addition to daily blood sugar monitoring to determine your average blood sugar level over the previous two to three months. When compared to daily blood sugar tests, A1C testing provides a more accurate picture of how well your diabetes treatment plan is functioning overall. A high A1C level may indicate that your oral medicine, insulin regimen, or food plan needs to be adjusted. Your A1C target objective may change depending on your age and other circumstances, such as any other medical disorders you may have.
  • Insulin.Insulin therapy is required for people with type 1 diabetes to live. Insulin therapy is required for many persons with type 2 diabetes or gestational diabetes. Insulin comes in a variety of forms, including ordinary insulin, rapid-acting insulin, long-acting insulin, and intermediate insulin. Your doctor may prescribe a combination of insulin types to take throughout the day and night, depending on your needs. Because stomach enzymes interfere with insulin’s function, they cannot be administered orally to lower blood sugar. Insulin is commonly injected with a thin needle and syringe or an insulin pen, which resembles a huge ink pen. An insulin pump is also a possibility. A pump is a little gadget that is worn on the exterior of your body and is about the size of a compact telephone. A tube connects the insulin reservoir to a catheter implanted beneath your abdomen’s skin. A tubeless pump with wireless functionality is also now available. An insulin pump is programmed to deliver exact doses of insulin. Depending on the meals, activity level, and blood sugar level, it can be changed to deliver more or less insulin.
  • Oral or other medications. Other oral or injectable drugs may also be administered. Some diabetes drugs cause your pancreas to generate and release more insulin. Others stop your liver from producing and releasing glucose, requiring less insulin to carry sugar into your cells. Others stop stomach or intestinal enzymes from breaking down carbohydrates or making your tissues more insulin sensitive. Metformin (Glumetza, Fortamet, and others) is the most common type 2 diabetes drug. SGLT2 inhibitors are another type of drug that could be used. They function by preventing sugar from being reabsorbed into the bloodstream by the kidneys. The sugar is instead eliminated in the urine.
  • Transplantation. A pancreas transplant may be an option for some persons with type 1 diabetes. Islet transplants are also being investigated. You wouldn’t require insulin if you had a successful pancreatic transplant. However, transplants aren’t always effective, and they come with significant dangers. To avoid organ rejection, you’ll need to take immunosuppressive medicines for the rest of your life. Because these medicines can have major adverse effects, transplants are normally reserved for those who can’t control their diabetes or who also require a kidney transplant.
  • Bariatric surgery. People with type 2 diabetes who are obese and have a body mass index of more than 35 may benefit from this sort of surgery, even though it is not an officially recognised treatment for type 2 diabetes. Gastric bypass patients have seen considerable changes in their blood sugar levels. However, the long-term hazards and benefits of this surgery for type 2 diabetes remain unknown.

Treatment for gestational diabetes

It’s critical to maintain your blood sugar under control in order to keep your baby healthy and avoid difficulties during birth. Your treatment plan may involve blood sugar monitoring and, in some situations, insulin or oral medications, in addition to eating a nutritious diet and exercising.

During labour, your doctor will also check your blood sugar levels. Your baby may release large quantities of insulin if your blood sugar rises, which might cause low blood sugar soon after birth.

Treatment for prediabetes

If you have prediabetes, making healthy lifestyle choices can help you return to normal blood sugar levels or keep them from rising to the levels found in type 2 diabetes. Exercise and a good diet can help you maintain a healthy weight. Type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed by exercising at least 150 minutes per week and decreasing roughly 7% of your body weight.

If you’re at high risk of diabetes, such as if your prediabetes is worsening or if you have cardiovascular disease, fatty liver disease, or polycystic ovarian syndrome, drugs like metformin may be a possibility.

In other circumstances, cholesterol-lowering drugs, particularly statins, and blood pressure meds are required. If you’re at high risk for cardiovascular disease, your doctor may recommend low-dose aspirin therapy. Healthy lifestyle choices, on the other hand, remain crucial.

Risk Factors

Because there are so many things that might alter your blood sugar, problems can occur that require rapid attention, such as:

  • High blood sugar (hyperglycemia). Many factors might cause your blood sugar to rise, including overeating, illness, or not taking enough glucose-lowering medicine. Check your blood sugar as directed by your doctor, and keep an eye out for signs and symptoms of high blood sugar, such as frequent urination, increased thirst, dry mouth, blurred vision, lethargy, and nausea. You’ll need to change your diet plan, medications, or both if you develop hyperglycemia.
  • Increased ketones in your urine (diabetic ketoacidosis). Your body may begin to break down fat if your cells are starving for energy. Ketones are poisonous acids that result from this process. Loss of appetite, weakness, vomiting, fever, stomach pain, and a sweet, fruity breath are all signs to look out for. An over-the-counter ketones test kit can be used to check your urine for excess ketones. If you have too many ketones in your urine, call your doctor or go to the emergency room right away. People with type 1 diabetes are more likely to develop this problem.
  • Hyperglycemic hyperosmolar nonketotic syndrome. A blood sugar level exceeding 600 mg/dL (33.3 mmol/L), dry mouth, excessive thirst, fever, lethargy, confusion, vision loss, and hallucinations are all signs and symptoms of this life-threatening illness. Hyperosmolar syndrome is characterised by extremely high blood sugar levels, which cause the blood to thicken and become syrupy. It occurs in persons with type 2 diabetes and is frequently preceded by sickness. If you experience signs or symptoms of this disorder, call your doctor or get medical help right away.
  • Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). Low blood sugar occurs when your blood sugar level falls below your goal range (hypoglycemia). If you’re on blood sugar-lowering medication, such as insulin, your blood sugar level can drop for a variety of reasons, including skipping a meal or engaging in more physical activity than usual. Low blood sugar can also occur if you take too much insulin or a glucose-lowering medicine that stimulates pancreatic insulin release. Sweating, shakiness, weakness, hunger, dizziness, headache, blurred vision, heart palpitations, irritability, slurred speech, drowsiness, confusion, fainting, and seizures are all signs and symptoms of low blood sugar. Quickly absorbed carbohydrates, such as fruit juice or glucose pills, are used to treat low blood sugar.


Changing your lifestyle can help you avoid diabetes, and it’s never too late to get started. Consider the following suggestions:

  • Lose extra weight
  • Be more physically active
  • Eat healthy plant foods
  • Eat healthy fats
  • Skip fad diets and make healthier choices