What is Diabetes Mellitus

Having diabetes means that your body cannot use sugar properly

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Diabetes, when the body can’t process sugar properly, is a serious but highly treatable condition.

Diabetes mellitus, or diabetes, occurs when your body is unable to properly process sugar from the food you eat, resulting in excess sugar (glucose) in your blood.

Normally, the amount of blood sugar is controlled by insulin, a hormone or chemical messenger produced by the pancreas, an organ behind the stomach. Insulin allows sugar in the blood to enter the cells where it’s used for energy.

There are two main types of diabetes, both of which are chronic diseases i.e. they are usually life-long conditions:

Type 1 diabetes

This is an autoimmune disease, where the body attacks itself: insulin-producing cells in the pancreas are destroyed. People with Type 1 diabetes take insulin daily.

Type 1 affects up to 10% of people with diabetes, and mainly occurs in children and young adults. Risk factors include: family history of Type 1 diabetes; damage to the pancreas.

Type 2 diabetes

In Type 2, your body either doesn’t produce enough insulin or your cells don’t respond normally to the hormone.

Up to 95% of people with diabetes have Type 2, usually occurring in middle-aged and older adults. Risk factors include: family history of Type 2, overweight/obesity, high blood pressure, unhealthy blood fat and cholesterol, sedentary lifestyle, smoking, cardiovascular disease.

Why is it essential to catch and control diabetes

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Uncontrolled diabetes, where blood sugar is persistently high, can lead to serious complications, causing damage to many different organs, including the heart, brain, kidneys, nerves, eyes and blood vessels.


You can protect against this, however, by getting diagnosed early and then closely following your treatment plan, which involves medication, insulin in some cases, home blood sugar testing and lifestyle changes.

Diabetes symptoms

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Any of these symptoms may indicate abnormally high blood sugar:

  • Excessive thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Fatigue/tiredness
  • Blurred vision
  • Hunger
  • Irritability

It’s important to note, though, that blood sugar can be too high without obvious symptoms, so have it tested as recommended by your doctor, even if you feel well.

American Diabetes Association. Standards of medical care in diabetes-2020 abridged for primary care providers. Clinical Diabetes. 2020; 38(1):10-38.

Link: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31975748/

Cleveland Clinic. Diabetes: An Overview. 2021.

Link: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/7104-diabetes-mellitus-an-overview

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