Diabetes Mellitus is a chronic condition that affects your body’s ability to use or produce Insulin. It is the fastest growing chronic condition in New Zealand. According to the Ministry of Health in New Zealand, there are over 240,000 people who have been diagnosed with diabetes (mostly type 2). It is thought there are approximately 100,000 people who have diabetes but are unaware that they have it.
Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas. There are cells in a small portion of the pancreas called islets of Langerhans. These islets contain alpha cells which secrete glucagon and beta cells which secrete insulin. Insulin helps the body store and use glucose (energy source from the food we eat such as sugar). Once we eat something, the glucose is left lingering in the bloodstream. Insulin is responsible for taking glucose from the blood and delivering it to the muscle, fat, liver, and most other cells so that our body can use it for fuel. Any destruction to the pancreas (by alcohol, disease or surgical removal) can cause insulin deficiency leading to diabetes. There are three major types of diabetes: type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, and gestational diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes
The body stops producing Insulin therefore there is nothing left to regulate the glucose levels in the blood. This is the more ‘serious’ type of the diabetes in comparison to the other ones. It is usually diagnosed at an early age, most commonly during childhood. It is also referred to as juvenile-onset diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. People with this type require insulin therapy on a daily basis, commonly referred to as the ‘injection’.
- Mostly unknown however genetic susceptibility (family history) is thought to be a reason
- Possible theory is that our immune system cells (autoantibodies) attack the beta cells in the pancreas and stop the production of insulin
Type 2 diabetes
This is the most common type of diabetes with approximately 90% of diabetics suffering from this type. It is more commonly diagnosed in the adulthood, after the age of 45 years. The biggest risk factor for this condition is abdominal obesity due to a sedentary lifestyle. In this type of diabetes, the pancreas is still producing insulin however the sufferer’s body is unable to respond to the insulin therefore there is no ‘vehicle’ to take the glucose from the blood to the rest of the body. This is referred to as ‘insulin-resistance’. Type 2 diabetes is usually controlled with diet, weight loss and an exercise regimen – however if these do not work then patients are prescribed oral medication. At some point during the course of the illness, some type 2 sufferers may require insulin therapy, however this is not a common occurrence if it is well-managed in the earlier stage of the condition.
- Genetic and environmental factors
- Overweight (especially abdominal obesity) although not everyone with type 2 diabetes is overweight
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Imbalanced diet with a high intake of junk and sugary foods
This type of diabetes occurs during the second to third trimester of pregnancy. Gestational diabetes is often self-resolving after the baby is delivered however women with this condition are at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life. These women are more likely to have large babies. It is important for pregnant women to control their diet with intake of healthy food and a balanced diet.
- During pregnancy, the placenta produces hormones to sustain your pregnancy. These hormones make your cells more resistant to insulin.
- Your pancreas is often able to produce more insulin however sometimes it cannot keep up with the high demands. This results in gestational diabetes.
This is a condition which occurs before a person is diagnosed with diabetes. This suggests that the sufferer’s blood glucose (sugar) levels are higher than normal yet it is not high enough to be considered diabetes. This condition is crucial as it can be reversed with lifestyle changes without the need of medication. Prediabetes increases the sufferer’s risk of developing diabetes, within the next 10 years of being diagnosed, and other conditions such as heart disease or stroke. This is a newly invented category of diabetes in order to encourage potential sufferers to prevent diabetes by changing their diet, controlling their weight and exercising. Causes are the same as type 2 diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes is treated with insulin therapy and type 2 diabetes is managed with oral medication as well as lifestyle changes. It is important to manage and control diabetes, as the complications can be disabling or even life-threatening. Some of these complications are:
- Eye damage (retinopathy): Diabetes can damage the blood vessels of the retina (diabetic retinopathy), potentially leading to blindness.
- Cardiovascular disease: Diabetes dramatically increases the risk of various cardiovascular problems.
- Nerve damage (neuropathy): High sugar levels in the blood can irritate the walls of the capillaries especially in the legs. If left untreated, it can damage the nerves.
- Kidney damage (nephropathy): Diabetes can damage the filtering system in the kidneys.
- Foot damage: Poor blood flow to the feet increases the risk of nerve damage in the feet leading to various foot problems in people with diabetes.
If there is a risk of diabetes in your family or you have any of the risk factors explained above then contact your family clinic or your GP as soon as you can in order to avoid future complications. For more information regarding diabetes contact Diabetes New Zealand on www.diabetes.org.nz
Dr Sarkaw Mohammad (Chiropractor)
Hillcrest Spinal Centre
174 Cambridge Road, Hamilton
Ph: 021 100 7363