Diabetes mellitus, commonly called diabetes, is a chronic metabolic disorder that results in too much glucose or sugar in the blood. It is caused when either the body cannot make sufficient insulin or it cannot efficiently use the insulin it makes. Untreated diabetes can cause damage to the eyes, nerves, kidneys, and numerous other organs in the body.

Diabetes: the different types

Diabetes can be classified into four types:

Type 1 diabetes

It is an autoimmune disorder where the immune system of your body attacks and damages the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. This disorder is normally diagnosed at a young age. The exact reason for this attack is unclear. It is estimated that about 10% of the total diabetic population is affected by this condition.

Type 2 diabetes

It is the most common form of diabetes and is most commonly diagnosed in older people. This disorder is caused when the body cannot properly use the insulin made by the pancreatic cells. This will cause an abnormal rise in your blood sugar levels. Even though the exact causes of the disease are not known, doctors have concluded that a combination of genetic, lifestyle and environmental factors increases the risk of the disease.

Prediabetes

This is a condition where the blood sugar is not high enough to be diabetes but is still higher than the normal value.

Gestational diabetes

This condition is seen in women during pregnancy. It usually disappears after childbirth. But the possibility of getting type 2 diabetes is higher if you get gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes can cause severe issues for the mother and child. Some complications associated with gestational diabetes include:

  • premature birth of the baby
  • stillbirth
  • weight of the baby is high at birth
  • baby has an increased risk of getting diabetes
  • jaundice at birth

Normal deliveries are extremely difficult if the mother is suffering from gestational diabetes. The mother can also suffer from preeclampsia, causing serious complications. The risk of gestational diabetes for subsequent pregnancies also increases.

Symptoms of diabetes

The symptoms of diabetes are greatly dependent on how elevated your blood glucose level is. Some of the most common symptoms of diabetes include:

  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Unexplainable weight loss
  • Extreme hunger
  • Ketones in urine
  • Irritability
  • Slow-healing wounds
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Frequent infections

Hypoglycaemia

Hypoglycaemia is a condition where the blood sugar level in the body becomes low. This can happen when a patient fails to eat the proper amounts of food or has taken too much insulin. Hypoglycaemia has several symptoms, including:

  • Confusion
  • Irritability
  • Drowsiness
  • Weakness
  • Reduced levels of consciousness
  • Clammy skin
  • Palpitations
  • Shaking or trembling

Hyperglycaemia

Hyperglycaemia is the condition where the blood sugar level in your body becomes high. This usually happens when a patient does not take the proper medication. It can also happen when someone has undiagnosed diabetes. The symptoms of hyperglycaemia include:

  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Fatigue
  • Drowsiness
  • Warm and dry skin
  • Unconsciousness

Hyperglycaemia develops slowly over days or weeks. You should seek medical assistance if you think you have hyperglycaemia.

The health impacts of diabetes

Diabetes has serious effects on numerous organs of the body, like the eyes, blood vessels, heart, nerves, and kidneys. The various complications caused by diabetes include:

  • stroke
  • heart disease
  • heart attacks
  • nephropathy
  • neuropathy
  • dementia
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • retinopathy
  • foot damage
  • hearing loss
  • skin issues
  • depression

Prevention of diabetes

Even though type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented, type 2 and gestational diabetes can be prevented by making some dietary and lifestyle changes. Some of them include:

  • Eat healthy meals focusing on whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Avoid foods that are high in calories and fat. Avoid fast foods and sugary drinks as much as possible.
  • Be physically active and do some moderate aerobic exercise for at least 30 minutes per day, or about 150 minutes per week.
  • Always keep an eye on your body weight. If you are becoming overweight, try to lose some of it by healthy means. But if you are pregnant, do not try to shed weight by yourself. Consult your gynaecologist and maintain the appropriate weight with the advice of your doctor.

First aid for diabetic emergencies

It is extremely crucial to give appropriate first aid kits to a patient suffering from a diabetic emergency. Different steps can be taken according to the condition of the patient.

If the person is unconscious

If the person is not responding to anything, support them on their side, dial the national emergency number, and ask for immediate medical assistance. Make sure not to give them anything to eat or drink until you have explicit advice from a medical practitioner.

If the person is conscious and shows signs of hypoglycaemia

If a suspected hypoglycaemic patient is conscious, first help them sit up. Then give them something sweet or sugary to eat or drink. Do not give them diet drinks as they are low on sugar. As they become more alert, you can give them a meal high in carbohydrates, like sandwiches or biscuits. Also, remember to frequently reassure them of their recovery. If the person is showing no signs of improvement, call for immediate medical help.

If the person is conscious and shows signs of hyperglycaemia

If a suspected hyperglycaemic patient is conscious, give them a sugar-free beverage to sip on and call for immediate medical assistance.

If you are not sure about whether the patient has high or low blood sugar, then call for medical assistance and give them a sugary drink while you wait.