What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic condition that manifest when the pancreas does not produce an adequate amount of insulin or when the body cannot sufficiently make use of the insulin it produces. Insulin is a hormone in the body that regulates the blood sugar.  Uncontrolled glucose level can result in diabetes or hyperglycaemia that is, a raise in blood sugar level. When this continues over time it causes serious damage to the body system specifically the nerves and the blood vessels.

Types and Causes of Diabetes

There are variations as to the causes of diabetes and it depends considerably on individual genetic makeup, family history, eating habit, health and environmental factors. The causes also vary by types and individual. For instance, the causes of type 2 diabetes are different from the causes of type 1 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease where the pancreas cannot manufacture insulin whereas type 2 diabetes is as a result of the body resistance to insulin.

The following are the types and causes of diabetes;

Type 1 diabetes: This is caused by autoimmune reaction, as a result of the body attacking itself; the cell in the pancreas that is responsible for insulin production is destroyed by the immune system. The causes are;

1. Viral or bacterial infection

2. Individual genetic makeup

3. Chemical toxins within food especially processed food.

4.Unidentified component causing autoimmune reaction.

Type 2 diabetes: This occurs as a result of the body resisting insulin. The causes are multi factorial, such as:

1. Family history

2. Obesity

3. Living a sedentary lifestyle

4. Aging

5. Poor diet

Gestational diabetes: this is diabetes in pregnancy and the cause is unknown. Nevertheless, there are numbers of risk factors that increase the tendency of manifesting this condition.

1. Overweight/obesity

2. Family history of gestational diabetes

3. Suffer from polycystic ovary diabetes.

4. Ethnicity

Other causes are:

1. Pancreatitis

2. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): Its root cause is obesity which is linked with insulin resistance which may increase the risk of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.

3. Cushing syndrome: This increases the production of cortisol hormone, whose functions is to increase the blood glucose level.

4. Glucagonoma: Patients with this condition may develop diabetes due to imbalance of insulin production and glucagon production

Symptoms of diabetes

The following signs are wake up call to go for either Pre-diabetic or Diabetic screening

1. Increased hunger

2. Increased thirst

3. Weight loss

4. Frequent Urination

5. Erectile dysfunction

6. Yeast infection

7. Blurry vision

8. Extreme fatigue

9. Sore/wounds that do not heal

10. Decreased sex drive

11. Urinary tract infection (UTI)

Health impact of diabetes

Diabetes is a gateway for other diseases. It can result into other complications such as heart failure, kidney disease, nephropathy, cardiovascular diseases, vascular dysfunction, sexual dysfunction, retinopathy, and different forms of cancer. Most diabetic patients also suffer from non-healing wounds, which lead to amputation of limbs, hand, and foot.

image showing a complication known as diabetic foot

Preventive measures to take

Healthy lifestyle and lifestyle modification are the main measures of preventing type 2 diabetes. To prevent type 2 diabetes and its complications it is advisable to:

1. Maintain a healthy body weight

2. Be physically active by observing at least 30 minutes of regular, moderately intense physical activity daily.

3. Eat a healthy diet: Avoid sugar and saturated fats.

4. Shun the use of tobacco and alcohol: Smoking increases the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Diagnosis and treatment

Early diagnose is the pathway to early detection and treatment of diabetes and this can be done through relatively inexpensive test of blood sugar.

The treatments for diabetes include:

1. Blood glucose control: This is the injection of external insulin into the body of the patient particularly type 1 diabetes while type 2 requires oral medication but sometime require insulin

2. Blood pressure control

3. Foot care (patient self-care by keeping foot hygiene; wearing appropriate footwear and regular checkup of the feet by health personnel).


Adequate diet and intense physical activity along with lowering the blood glucose level and the levels of other known risk factors that damage the blood vessels are the best treatment for diabetes. Avoidance of tobacco and alcohol use help guide against further complications.

 Early diagnosis coupled with proper management/treatment of diabetes can prevent untimely death and the occurrence of other complications as well. In order not to develop other complications associated with diabetes, regular screening; such as for retinopathy, kidney condition, blood lipid control etc. should be encourage.

Bourne RR, Stevens GA, White RA, Smith JL, Flaxman SR, Price H et al. Lancet Global Health 2013;1:e339-e349

Sarwar N, Gao P, Seshasai SR, Gobin R, Kaptoge S, Di Angelantonio et al. Lancet. 2010; 26;375:2215-2222.

United States Renal Data System. National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, Bethesda, MD, 2014:188–210.



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