In western countries, diabetes is one of the most frequent metabolic disorders. In the United States alone, people get diagnosed with diabetes as early as childhood. What characterizes this disease are constantly high blood sugar levels due to low levels of insulin that fail to transport the sugar into the cells.
There are two types of diabetes, creatively named Type 1 and Type 2, both present in the population at large. First, let’s get some context.
How glucose is normally metabolized in the body
During digestion, carbs (including some dairy) are broken down into glucose. The glucose passes into the bloodstream, and it is transported to the cells, which can, then, use it. The level of glucose in the blood can be measured with a simple test.
Some of the blood glucose is transported to the liver and muscles and deposited as glycogen, which can be turned directly into energy when needed. The excess glucose gets turned into fat and stored in the adipose tissue (the fat tissue).
When your body senses the rise in blood glucose level, it directs the pancreas to produce insulin, which allows the glucose to pass through the cell walls and be burned or stored for later use. If the pancreas is not able to produce enough insulin, the blood glucose level remains high, and that can lead to all kinds of complications.
What happens in a body with diabetes
If diabetes is present, the body is not able to metabolize the glucose at the normal rate, so the blood glucose level will stay elevated longer than in a healthy body. Measured two hours after a meal, if the blood glucose level is over 140 mg/dl, it shows a pre-diabetic state, while if it is over 200 mg/dl, diabetes is, most likely, already present.
Types of diabetes
Usually diagnosed during puberty, it is prevalent in males and impacts about 10% of the population. It is usually genetically inherited. It appears as a result of the body’s immune system attacking the pancreas, which becomes unable to produce insulin.
The most common form of the disorder, it usually appears after age 40, but has started to appear at younger and younger ages in recent years. It affects both males and females. Diet plays a significant role in the development of this type of diabetes. The pancreas is not able to produce enough insulin or there is a high cell resistance to insulin, usually brought on by obesity.
It usually occurs in the third trimester of a pregnancy and, although it should disappear after the pregnancy is over, it sometimes leads to type 2 diabetes.
Some symptoms of diabetes
#1. Frequent need to pee
The kidneys are working overtime to flush the glucose from the bloodstream, so they produce more urine than they normally should. In time, the kidneys can get affected because of the prolonged extra activity.
#2. Itchy and irritated nether region
When the urine is very rich in glucose, it becomes acidic, and it starts irritating the tissues it comes in contact with.
#3. Unquenchable thirst
Because the kidneys are working overtime, they will flush more liquid than usual. The body will react by turning on the thirst signal. Given your constant state of dehydration, you will probably drink a lot of water and still feel thirsty.
The muscles use glycogen as fuel for effort. If blood glucose does not get to the muscles to be stored as glycogen, the muscles will have no fuel. Hence, you will not be able to exert yourself and will constantly feel tired.
#5. Unwanted and significant weight loss
When there is no glucose available to burn, the body will turn to burning muscle and, since the muscles make up a significant part of the total body weight, you will lose weight but not fat.
#6. Injuries that heal slowly
The scientific explanation for this symptom is complex, but the main idea is that, because of the high glucose level in the blood, the cells that are supposed to close up the wound are not able to get there as easily as in a healthy body.
#7. Fluctuating eye lenses
Remember that, with prolonged high blood glucose level, the kidneys flush more water from the body than they normally would? This affects the water in all bodily tissues, including the lenses of the eyes. If you notice that your vision fluctuates, or occasionally becomes blurry, you need to check with a doctor.
Finally, there is a sign which shows that you’ve been ignoring all other symptoms way too long. It is called diabetic ketoacidosis, and it appears when the body starts breaking down fat for glucose. Ketone levels in blood and urine will rise above normal, turning them acidic. These are the symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis:
- breath that smells fruity,
- nausea and vomiting,
- appetite loss (sudden and progressive),
- muscle cramps,
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