Diabetes is a chronic condition characterized by high levels of glucose (sugar) in the blood. It occurs when the body either doesn’t produce enough insulin or doesn’t effectively use the insulin it produces. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that helps regulate blood sugar levels.
There are three main types of diabetes: type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that usually develops in childhood or adolescence. In this condition, the immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. People with type 1 diabetes require daily insulin injections or the use of an insulin pump to survive. Common symptoms of type 1 diabetes include frequent urination, excessive thirst, unexplained weight loss, extreme fatigue, and blurred vision.
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes, accounting for around 90% of cases. It usually develops in adulthood, although it is increasingly being diagnosed in children and adolescents. In type 2 diabetes, the body becomes resistant to the effects of insulin, and the pancreas may not produce enough insulin to compensate. Lifestyle factors such as poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, and obesity play a significant role in the development of type 2 diabetes. Symptoms may be mild or go unnoticed, but can include frequent urination, increased thirst, fatigue, blurred vision, slow wound healing, and recurrent infections.
Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy and typically resolves after childbirth. It is characterized by high blood sugar levels that develop during pregnancy in women who have not previously been diagnosed with diabetes. Gestational diabetes increases the risk of complications during pregnancy and delivery, and it also raises the risk of both the mother and the child developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
Several risk factors can increase the likelihood of developing diabetes. These include a family history of diabetes, being overweight or obese, leading a sedentary lifestyle, having a poor diet high in processed foods and sugary beverages, and having certain ethnic backgrounds, such as African, Hispanic, Asian, or Native American. Age, especially being over 45, and a history of gestational diabetes or prediabetes also increase the risk.
Understanding the different types of diabetes, recognizing the symptoms, and being aware of the risk factors are crucial for early detection and effective management. Regular check-ups with a healthcare professional, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and following appropriate treatment plans are key to preventing complications and living well with diabetes.