What is Diabetes?

Diabetes represents a spectrum of chronic, but treatable, health conditions that cause raised glucose levels in the blood (hyperglycaemia). Long-term hyperglycaemia is toxic and associated with damage to the body and failure of various tissues and organs. Although many specific types of diabetes exist, three main types occur commonly.

This is an autoimmune condition in which the body’s defence system attacks ‘self’ and destroys the beta cells of the pancreas that produce insulin. Although people of any age can develop and have the condition, type 1 diabetes usually develops in children or young adults. Treatment requires ‘hormone replacement therapy’ of two to four or more insulin injections daily for life, to replace the missing insulin and to keep blood glucose levels within a healthy range as much as possible. People with type 1 diabetes are otherwise healthy if blood glucose levels are well managed.

Type 2 diabetes is a complex and progressive disorder in which a relative lack of insulin occurs together with resistance to its action. It affects around 90 % of the population who have diabetes and has a strong correlation with the ‘Westernised lifestyle’ associated with a lack of exercise, poor eating habits and gain of excess fat (particularly around the tummy region). This way of living may result in the development of insulin resistance and eventually, diabetes.

As there is a general lack of symptoms, the diagnosis is often made when a complication appears or when a routine blood or urine glucose test is done. Treatment always begins with lifestyle change (getting active, healthy eating and loss of tummy fat) as a priority, to which a variety of oral (tablet) and injectable (including insulin) therapies may also be added, over time. The good news is that successful lifestyle management resulting in a dramatic loss of excess tummy fat and increased insulin sensitivity can slow this progression dramatically. It may even put your diabetes into ‘remission’ (normal blood glucose values on no treatment). Speak to your diabetes team about how to achieve this.

pregnant lady with heart handsGDM is a form of diabetes first diagnosed during pregnancy and is associated with potential complications to both mother and baby.

Although GDM usually disappears after pregnancy, women with GDM and their children, are at an increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes later in life. Approximately half of women with a history of GDM go on to develop type 2 diabetes within five to ten years after delivery. The good news is that successful lifestyle management resulting in a dramatic loss of tummy fat and increased insulin sensitivity can prevent or delay this progression significantly.

At the CDE we, tend to focus more on causes of health than on causes of illness. We hope this approach will be refreshing and empowering and encourage you and your family to better understand the condition and some of the daily challenges and variables that may arise. We have developed booklets for those living with type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes, to provide pertinent information to assist you or your loved one with managing diabetes.

Life will be different with diabetes, but it can still be sweet…