One of the most life-threatening disease conditions asides from hypertension and many others is diabetes mellitus. Diabetes or diabetes mellitus is known to be a disease that affects one’s blood sugar. It is a metabolic disorder with the basic feature of an elevated blood glucose level over a long period. This is known as hyperglycemia. The normal fasting blood glucose level is 100mg/dL. Diabetes is a very serious health condition as it may result in chronic kidney disease (CDK), nerves damage, stroke, eye damage, foot ulcers, cardiovascular disorders, and many more ailments.
WHAT CAUSES DIABETES MELLITUS?
To understand the cause or pathophysiology of diabetes, one has to understand the role of glucose in the body and the role insulin plays in glucose metabolism. Glucose is a simple sugar, which serves as a source of energy for cells in the body. These cells include cells that makeup tissues and muscles in the body. Our body cells require glucose to fuel metabolic activities. Glucose comes from two sources. Firstly, it comes from the food we eat and from our liver. The liver helps to store and produce glucose. When the glucose level in the blood is low, the liver helps to break down stored glycogen into glucose.
Insulin is an important hormone that plays a great role in glucose regulation. Insulin is a hormone produced by the beta cells of the pancreas. It is a two-chained polypeptide consisting of about 50 amino acids. About forty 40-50 fifty units of insulin are secreted daily.
Insulin promotes the entry and utilization of glucose to the body cells and stores it. This process helps to lower the blood glucose level. This implies that when a person consumes a meal rich in carbohydrates,s for example, insulin is released from the beta cells of the pancreas and it acts to reduce the blood glucose level. This helps in attaining homeostasis.
When there is a deficiency of insulin, a metabolic condition known as diabetes mellitus arises. Hence, the basic cause of diabetes mellitus is insulin deficiency. However, there are other risk factors for diabetes. These include:
· Genetics or Hereditary: people with a family history of diabetes are at risk of developing diabetes.
· Lifestyle: people who consume a great amount of sugar and are inactive are at risk of developing diabetes.
· Age: people above the age of 45 years are also at risk of developing diabetes.
· Some pre-existing medical problems: people with some existing medical conditions such as hypertension are at risk of developing hypertension.
· Obesity: People who are obese have the tendency of developing diabetes.
· Drugs: some drugs have the tendency of causing diabetes. This is known as drug-induced diabetes. Examples of such drugs include thiazide diuretics usually prescribed to hypertensive patients.
SYMPTOMS OF DIABETES MELLITUS
The following are some of the signs/symptoms of diabetes mellitus:
1. Excessive thirst or dehydration
3. Blurred vision
4. Frequent urination
5. Weight loss
8. Slow-healing wounds
9. Numbness in feet
10. Dermatological problems
TYPES OF DIABETES MELLITUS
There are three main kinds/types of diabetes mellitus.
1. Type 1 diabetes: this occurs frequently in children or adolescents. It is known as juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. However, it can also develop at any age. In type 1 diabetes, the body produces a minimal amount of insulin or no insulin. As a result, the blood glucose level is not regulated and may spike up. Patients with this type of diabetes have to receive insulin injections every day to maintain a normal blood glucose level.
2. Type 2 diabetes: this is more common in adults and the most predominant type of diabetes. It is known as the non-insulin-dependent type of diabetes. It occurs due to insulin resistance. In type 2 diabetes, the beta cells of the pancreas produce insulin but the body does not make use of it. Patients with this type of diabetes will require oral drugs and insulin to keep their blood glucose levels in check.
3. Gestational diabetes: this type of diabetes occurs in pregnant women. It is associated with elevated high blood sugar which may cause complications to both mother and child. It is caused by insulin-blocking hormones that are produced by the placenta.
TEST FOR DIABETES MELLITUS
There are different types of tests for diabetes mellitus. Here are some of them:
1. Fasting blood glucose test: in this type of test, the patient is required to fast overnight. After that, the blood glucose level is taken. A fasting blood glucose level below 100mg/dL is considered normal. A fasting blood glucose level between 100-126mg/dL indicates that such a person has prediabetes. Any fasting blood glucose level above 126mg/dL indicates diabetes.
2. A1C test: in this type of test, the average blood sugar level of the patient is measured over the past 2 to 3 months. An A1C value below 5.7% is considered normal. When it is between 5.7% and 6.4%, it indicates prediabetes, and above 6.4% indicates diabetes.
3. Random blood glucose test: this test measures your random blood glucose level. The test can be taken without fasting. When the value is above 200mg/dL, it indicates diabetes.
HOW TO PREVENT DIABETES
1. Exercise regularly
2. Avoid taking meals with high sugar content
3. Avoid smoking
4. Fight obesity
5. Say no to a sedentary lifestyle
6. Eat a little portion of food
7. Reduce intake of red meat and processed foods
8. Choose water over drinks
9. Eat healthy plant foods
TREATMENT OF DIABETES
Diabetes can be managed pharmacologically by the use of drugs. These drugs help to lower glucose production in the liver and improves the body’s sensitivity to insulin. Some of these drugs also help the body to produce more insulin in other to regulate glucose metabolism.
Examples of some of these drugs used to manage diabetes include Metformin, Glinides, DPP-4 inhibitors, Thiazolidinediones, Sulfonylureas, etc.
Diabetes can also be managed using insulin therapy. This involves injecting the patient with insulin which may be long-acting insulin or short-acting insulin. However, there are some side effects associated with the intake of insulin. This includes side effects like hypoglycemia, increased triglycerides, and ketoacidosis.