Last month, I had 2 patients on the same day diagnosed with Diabetes- one an overweight 34 year old IT professional and the other a 6-year-old girl. The reason, why this incident comes to my mind today is because they were both diabetics but, had different diabetes and even their course of treatments was different.
But, the first question I was asked in both the cases was whether they will need to be put on insulin injections immediately. Well, this is a common question asked by patients. To understand this condition better, let me try and explain a bit about the different types of diabetes on the basis of which the required treatment is normally recommended.
Diabetes is a group of metabolic disorders in which the person has high blood glucose (blood sugar), either because insulin production is inadequate, or because the body’s cells do not respond properly to insulin or both. Common symptoms of either diabetes are unexplained weight loss, excess hunger, and excess thirst and delayed wound healing.
Today, I would like to take you through specifically 3 major types of diabetes namely, Type 1, Type 2 and gestational Diabetes.
Let’s talk about
Type 1 Diabetes: is caused by a loss or malfunction of the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, called beta cells. Damage to beta cells results in absence or insufficient production of insulin. Most cases of Type 1 Diabetes have an autoimmune basis in which immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys its own beta cells. These cases are detected either in childhood or teenage years. There are many theories about what causes type 1 diabetes like autoimmune disease, viral infection, genetic predisposition and environmental factors may also play a role.
Whatever be the cause, this missing insulin has to be replaced as insulin is necessary to sustain life. It is responsible for entry of glucose into the body cells from where the glucose is further utilized for energy and other activities. This glucose which is not entering the cells is circulating in the blood which gets detected as high blood sugar. The replacement insulin is administered by injection using a syringe or an insulin pump. Thanks to the invention of Insulin clubbed with a healthy lifestyle, a Type 1 diabetic is able to lead a happy good quality life.
Coming to Type 2 diabetes most often than not your tissues will be resistant to insulin, so the insulin is being produced but unfortunately not being utilized properly. It is the most common form of diabetes worldwide and accounts for 90-95% of the cases.
Insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes means the signal insulin gives to a cell is weakened. This results in less glucose uptake by muscle and fat cells and a reduction in insulin mediated activities inside cells.
Risk factors for Type 2 Diabetes include an Unhealthy Lifestyle (being physically inactive or less active, erratic food and sleep habits, stress), being overweight or obese and importantly family history of diabetes in close relatives.
We have ample medicine combinations for type 2 diabetes like tablets which keep the blood sugar under control. But if sufficient sugar control is not achieved in spite of oral medications and a healthy lifestyle, then insulin might be required for further management.
Another type of Diabetes I would like to talk about is Gestational diabetes which basically refers to diabetes diagnosed during pregnancy.
Pregnancy hormones can interfere with the way insulin works in the mother’s body which can lead to elevated blood glucose levels during pregnancy. Women are typically screened for gestational diabetes at 24-28 weeks of pregnancy, however, women who have risk factors may be screened earlier.
Risk factors for developing gestational diabetes include having a family history of diabetes, being overweight, or over 28 years old. Blood glucose control during pregnancy is critical as elevated maternal glucose levels can lead to pregnancy complications and pose risks to the health of the baby. Gestational diabetes is likely to recur during subsequent pregnancies.
Gestational diabetes requires specialized treatment for the rest of the pregnancy. After the pregnancy is over, most women will have normal blood sugars again; however, up to 20-50 % can develop type 2 diabetes within 10 years. Regular screening is recommended.
A study conducted on people at risk of type 2 diabetes, it was seen that those who lost just 7% of their weight and exercised about 30 minutes a day cut their risk of diabetes by nearly 60%. In a nutshell, irrespective of the type of diabetes the best prevention or management strategy is to eat healthy, stay active and keep a check on your weight.
Reference: University of California, San Francisco – Diabetes online Education website.