Around 1.8 million Australians have diabetes. Whether you suffer from this disease or know a loved one with diabetes, we believe that growing awareness by talking about its impact can help reduce diabetes incidence.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes, or diabetes mellitus as it is formally known, is a disorder that affects your body’s way of utilising sugar (glucose). Glucose is your body’s main source of nutritional energy. Your body maintains a certain amount of glucose circulating in your blood to meet the energy demands of your body, both its normal daily processes and any exercise.
There are three different types of diabetes, Type I, Type II and gestational diabetes. Both can lead to high levels of sugar in your blood, which can seriously affect your health. Diabetes is caused by the inability of the pancreas to make the hormone insulin.
Insulin is the hormone that promotes glucose uptake from the blood, so if your body does not make enough, the sugar levels in your blood rise. It also decreases the amount of glucose your liver secretes into the blood. The beta cells in your pancreas that manufacture and secrete insulin are sensitive to blood glucose levels, so when there are high glucose levels in the blood, it will secrete insulin into the blood to bring these levels down.
Type I and II diabetes
Type I diabetes is caused by an autoimmune reaction, where the body’s immune system attacks itself rather than a foreign body or germ. In the case of diabetes Type I, the body’s immune system attacks the beta cells of the pancreas and destroys them, leading to an inability to produce insulin. Type I diabetes is often referred to as juvenile diabetes, as it appears in childhood and adolescence. It is a chronic condition, which means it does not go away.
Type II diabetes can develop when the body’s cells do not respond to insulin as well as they should, or when the pancreas loses the ability to produce as much insulin as needed. Type II diabetes is usually diagnosed in adults. It occurs when too much sugar is often circulating in the blood, which, over time, causes the body’s cells to lose the ability to regulate circulating sugar levels effectively.
The symptoms for both diabetes Types I and II are similar, which include:
- Increased thirst
- Frequent urination
- Increased hunger
- Weight loss
- Blurred vision
- Frequent infections in areas such as the gums and skin and slow healing sores.
- Fruity-smelling breath
Understanding Blood Sugar
- High Blood Sugar or hyperglycemia occurs when there is too much sugar in the blood.
- Low Blood Sugar or hypoglycemia occurs when there is not enough sugar in the blood. This can be caused by diet, some medications and conditions, and exercise.
Risk factors of type II diabetes
- Being overweight.
- If your fat distribution is centred around your abdomen. For men, this means having a waist circumference of greater than 101 cm and for women having a waist circumference greater than 88 cm.
- Inactivity and not regularly exercising.
- Having a family history of diabetes type II.
- Ethnicity can play a part in your chance of developing diabetes due to genetic factors.
- Having high levels of triglycerides in your blood and low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol — the “”good”” cholesterol.
- In age, the risk of developing type II diabetes increases as you get older.
- Having high levels of sugar in your blood, which is often a state known as prediabetes.
- Women who have gestational diabetes (which usually ends after birth of the baby) are at a greater risk of developing type II diabetes later in life.
- Women with polycystic ovary syndrome are also at a greater risk of developing type II diabetes.
Living with diabetes
It can be challenging keeping blood sugar levels within the recommended range by your doctor. Many factors can change your blood sugar levels, which can also occur unexpectedly. Food, exercise, medication and illness are all involved in the process of blood glucose levels.
A cornerstone of healthy living is healthy eating, whether you have diabetes or not. But if you do have diabetes, knowing how foods affect your blood glucose levels is essential. Ensuring you eat the right amount of food and combinations can be difficult to navigate. Diabetic education is an essential service for people who have been diagnosed with diabetes. At Duff Street Medical, we have a specialised diabetic clinic in Cranbourne where we provide comprehensive assessments, screenings, education and treatment for patients with diabetes or for people who may be at risk of developing diabetes. More information on our diabetic clinic can be found here.