What is Diabetes?

Diabetes or diabetes mellitus is a chronic disease where the body does not make or does not use insulin properly, resulting in having too much sugar (glucose) in the blood. Sugar comes from the food we eat. The body needs sugar to make energy. The amount of sugar in the blood of a normal person is closely controlled by a substance called insulin. Insulin is made by the pancreas, a gland found below the stomach. People with diabetes either do not produce enough insulin or the insulin produced does not work well. As a result, sugar builds up in the blood.

Over time, high sugar levels can give rise to problems like infections, blindness, kidney disorders, stroke, heart disease, and foot and leg disorders.

Who gets diabetes?

About 9% of the adult population in Singapore have diabetes. Diabetes can affect people of any age or race. However, 90% of people with diabetes are over 40 years old.

Some risks of diabetes mellitus include:
• Family history
• Overweight
• More than 40 years of age
• Pregnancy
• Exposure to a trigger mechanism (a virus or chemical substance)

Types of Diabetes Mellitus

There are two main types of diabetes:

Type 1 (Insulin-dependent diabetes)
Persons with Type 1 diabetes cannot control their blood sugar properly because their pancreas produces little or no insulin. The body’s own immune system (the system in the body that produces substances to help it fight against infection and disease) mistakenly destroys the insulin producing cells in the pancreas.

They need insulin injections to control their blood sugars. It usually happens to young people. It can also occur in older adults, but less commonly.

Type 2 (Non-insulin dependent diabetes)
About 80% of all persons with diabetes belong to this group. They can produce insulin, but their body does not use it effectively.

Type 2 diabetes can be controlled by diet, exercise and medicines. If these fail, insulin injections may be needed.

Gestational Diabetes

Some women develop diabetes during pregnancy – gestational diabetes. A family history of diabetes is an important risk factor. Gestational diabetes usually disappears after the baby is born, but it may reappear during next pregnancies. In some women, gestational diabetes leads to diabetes mellitus.

Symptoms of Diabetes

If you are experiencing one or more of the following symptoms associated with diabetes, immediately consult your healthcare professional.
• Increased urination
• Blurred vision
• Fatigue or drowsiness
• Poorly healing cuts or bruises
• Increased hunger and thirst
• Rapid weight loss
• Nausea and vomiting
• Dry, itchy skin
• Loss of feeling in hands or feet

At present, no cure is available for diabetes. But with regular self-monitoring of blood glucose and a proper combination of diet, exercise and medication, people with diabetes lead active, healthy lives.

Prevention of Diabetes

People with diabetes can live a healthy life. Research studies have found that lifestyle changes can prevent or delay the onset of Type 2 diabetes among high-risk adults. Changing diet and adding moderate exercise (such as walking) reduced the development of diabetes in study participants by over 40% during the study.

The goal of diabetes care is to keep your blood sugar level within the target range specified by your doctor. This can help avoid some long-term problems of diabetes. As a result, you will feel healthier, more active and more in control of your life.

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