What is diabetes?

Diabetes mellitus is a medical condition which causes the blood sugar levels to rise because the body is either not producing insulin or because the insulin being produced is not able to process the amount of glucose ingested. It is classified into either Type 1 or Type 2, depending on the causes of the disease. Figures show that three quarters of the people diagnosed with the condition are suffering from Type 2 diabetes, which is linked to lifestyle choices as well as genetic risk factors.

The disease cannot be cured but it can be successfully managed with medication.

What is the difference between Type 1 and Type 2?

Type 1 is an autoimmune disease which causes the body to be unable to produce insulin, which is necessary in order to transform glucose into energy. This type of diabetes usually appears early in life and cannot be prevented or cured, however most people with the condition will be able to control it by maintaining a specific diet and injecting insulin.

Type 2 occurs when the body is not producing enough insulin or if the insulin which is being produced is not working properly. Type 2 usually appears in people over the age of 40 and is linked to obesity in most cases. As it is a progressive disease, most people will at some point require medication to treat it, as well as a controlled diet and increased exercise.

What are the symptoms?

Diabetes can cause a number of symptoms, including weight loss, increased thirst, increased need to urinate, genital itching and fatigue. People with Type 1 usually experience these symptoms very quickly and may also suffer from problems with their vision or skin infections. In cases of Type 2, the symptoms often appear more slowly and are less severe, which causes many cases to go undiagnosed.

What causes the condition?

Type 1 diabetes is usually caused by genetic factors although other viruses and problems with the pancreas can increase your chances of developing the condition. Because it is mostly due to genetic predisposition, Type 1 is impossible to prevent.

The chances of developing Type 2 diabetes are also increased by genetic predisposition. However, other lifestyle factors are also to blame for the majority of cases. Poor diet and a lack of exercise can cause obesity, which is strongly linked to the condition, as being overweight can cause the body to develop an insulin resistance. Women who carry excess fat around their waist are considered to be at a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

What treatments are available?

When diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, most people will need to use synthetic insulin which can be injected into the body, usually on a daily basis.

Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, can sometimes be treated with lifestyle changes such as weight loss and diet control. Doctors will usually recommend making these alterations before prescribing medication, as in some cases it can be enough to maintain a healthy blood sugar level. In many cases, medication is also necessary to treat the condition.