By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
The term diabetes is the short for the full name, diabetes mellitus. This term is derived from the Greek words diabetes meaning siphon or to pass through and the Latin word mellitus meaning honeyed or sweet. This is because, in diabetes, excess sugar accumulates in the blood and urine.
Types of diabetes
There are two types of diabetes, type 1 and type 2. Type 1 diabetes usually occurs in childhood or adolescence and is also known of as juvenile diabetes. With type 1 diabetes, the body stops producing insulin, the hormone which usually stimulates the body's cells to uptake glucose from the blood to use for energy.
This lack of insulin mandates the external administration of the hormone and the condition is therefore also know of as insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM).
Around 75% of people with diabetes have type 2 diabetes mellitus. This has also been called non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) or maturity-onset diabetes mellitus. The incidence of type 2 diabetes is on the increase worldwide as the number of health problems such as obesity increase.
In type 2 diabetes, not enough insulin is produced or the insulin that is made by the body does not exert the usual effects on body cells.
Gestational diabetes is the diabetes that occurs during pregnancy. This causes a rise in blood sugar levels which can harm the unborn child. Gestational diabetes affects about 4% of pregnant women. After childbirth, the mother is at an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Symptoms of type 2 diabetes
There are three main symptoms of diabetes and these include polydipsia (increased thirst), polyphagia (increased hunger) and polyuria (increased frequency of urination). In addition, patients may complain of fatigue, weight loss and loss of muscle bulk.
Type 2 diabetes may develop gradually and obesity, overweight and lack of physical activity are thought to be major contributors to the condition.
Causes and consequences of type 2 diabetes
The high blood glucose found in diabetes can damage the blood vessels which can lead to several complications such as heart disease, kidney damage, nerve damage, eye damage blindness, impotence and stroke.
Prevention, treatment and care
Blood sugar should be regularly monitored so that any problems can be detected and treated early. Treatment involves lifestyle changes such as eating a healthy and balanced diet and regular physical exercise. In type 2 diabetics, blood sugar may be controlled using oral medications or even insulin injections in the advanced stages of disease.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc