General Practice 2022

Diabetes: what é, types, symptoms, causes, treatment (and more)

Table of contents:

Diabetes: what é, types, symptoms, causes, treatment (and more)
Diabetes: what é, types, symptoms, causes, treatment (and more)

Diabetes is a chronic disease characterized by an increase in blood sugar levels, which can cause damage to various organs if left untreated.

There are four main types of diabetes: type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes and prediabetes. The main cause of diabetes is poor diet, especially excessive consumption of sugary, processed foods and lack of physical exercise.

Treatment of diabetes usually involves making lifestyle changes, especially diet and physical exercise. But medications such as oral antidiabetics or insulin may also be needed.

Main types of diabetes

Diabetes can be divided into 4 main types:

  • Type 1 diabetes: is the least common type and appears from birth, being considered an autoimmune disease, since the immune system itself attacks the cells of the pancreas responsible for producing the insulin. Thus, insulin is not produced, glucose is not transported to the cells and ends up accumulating in the blood;
  • Type 2 diabetes: this is the most common type and occurs due to lifelong insulin resistance, usually due to poor eating habits. This resistance slows down the action of insulin in the body and causes glucose to end up accumulating in the body;
  • Gestational diabetes: is a type of diabetes that occurs only during pregnancy and is related to the production, by the placenta, of other hormones that block the action of insulin;
  • Pre-diabetes: occurs when the blood sugar level is high but not high enough to make a diagnosis of diabetes.

In addition to these, diabetes can also be divided into other rarer types such as latent autoimmune diabetes in adults or diabetes triggered by the use of drugs.

Another condition, known as diabetes insipidus, although it has a similar name, is not considered a type of diabetes, as it happens when the kidneys remove excess fluid from the body, not being directly related to insulin or blood sugar level.

Symptoms of diabetes

Classic symptoms of diabetes include:

  • Exaggerated thirst feeling;
  • Increased hunger;
  • Frequent urge to urinate;
  • Dry mouth;
  • Easy fatigue;
  • View changes.

Typically, the symptoms of type 2 diabetes appear throughout life and are mainly due to poor eating habits, especially the exaggerated consumption of sugar and carbohydrates, as well as the lack of physical exercise.

The symptoms of type 1 diabetes are usually identified during childhood or adolescence and can also include other more generalized signs such as difficulty gaining weight, itching all over the body or irritability and sudden mood swings.

In the case of gestational diabetes, symptoms are rarer and, therefore, the woman usually discovers that she has diabetes during routine prenatal exams, especially after taking the glucose test.

What causes diabetes

The causes of diabetes vary according to the type of diabetes:

1. Type 1 diabetes

The exact cause of type 1 diabetes is not known, however, it is known that the immune system identifies the ß cells of the pancreas, responsible for the production of insulin, and causes its destruction, which is why it is known as an autoimmune disease.

Since it is not caused by lifestyle, type 1 diabetes can be present from birth, being identified during childhood or adolescence.

2. Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is mostly caused by poor eating habits, especially excessive consumption of foods with sugar or carbohydrates. In addition, having a sedentary lifestyle can also contribute to the onset of diabetes.

People with fat accumulation in the abdominal region also appear to be at increased risk of type 2 diabetes, as fat cells appear to contribute to insulin resistance.

3. Gestational diabetes

Gestational diabetes mainly develops due to hormones that are produced by the placenta during pregnancy. These hormones appear to partially block the action of insulin, making it easier to raise blood sugar levels during pregnancy.

Still, women who are overweight, who gained a lot of weight during pregnancy, who previously had gestational diabetes, or who have a family history of type 2 diabetes appear to be at increased risk of developing gestational diabetes.

How to confirm the diagnosis of diabetes

The diagnosis of diabetes can be made with a set of blood tests that allow assessing the amount of glucose.

However, one of the most used tests and that is usually included in routine tests is the fasting blood glucose test. This test measures the amount of glucose in the blood after a fasting period of at least 8 hours, the reference values ​​being:

  • Normal: less than 99 mg/dL;
  • Pre-diabetes: between 100 to 125 mg/dL;
  • Diabetes: above 126 mg/dL.

When fasting glucose values ​​are altered by at least 2 dosages on different days, it is usually recommended to do another test to confirm the values ​​and help in the diagnosis.However, the doctor may also order other tests, such as glycated hemoglobin or the glucose tolerance test (OGTT).

To better understand the glucose test result, select the test performed in the calculator below and enter your result:

How the treatment is done

Treatment of diabetes aims to improve quality of life, relieve symptoms, and prevent the development of more serious he alth complications.

Although some precautions are considered general to treat any type of diabetes, such as planning the type of food you eat and exercising regularly, treatment may vary slightly depending on the type of diabetes:

Type 1 diabetes

The main treatment for type 1 diabetes is the daily use of injectable insulin because, as the body cannot produce the hormone, insulin needs to be injected into the body.A slow-acting injection is usually given at the start of the day to maintain a basal level of the hormone in the body, but it is also necessary to measure blood glucose before and after meals to see if an extra injection is necessary, usually from a rapid or ultra-rapid insulin.

In addition to insulin, it is also recommended to maintain a meal plan, especially regarding the amount of sugar and carbohydrates consumed, as well as adopt an active lifestyle, with regular physical exercise.

Type 2 diabetes

Treatment of type 2 diabetes does not always have to start with medication because, depending on blood sugar levels, it may be possible to control glucose only with lifestyle changes, especially diet, with reduced blood sugar. intake of sugary foods and carbohydrates, as well as regular physical exercise.

In cases where it is necessary to use medication, the doctor can prescribe the use of two different types:

  • Oral antidiabetics: they are the first line of drug treatment for type 2 diabetes and help to keep sugar levels under control through several mechanisms, either by stimulating the production of insulin by the pancreas, eliminating glucose through the urine or decreasing glucose production by the liver;
  • Insulin: Used when oral antidiabetic drugs have not been sufficient to control glucose or when antidiabetic drugs are not a treatment option, such as in people with kidney failure.

If insulin is used, it is important to make a daily and regular assessment of capillary blood glucose, especially before and after meals, using a glucometer, which is a device that measures capillary blood glucose.

Gestational diabetes

The treatment of gestational diabetes is essentially done with changes in the diet and regular practice of physical exercise, as these are natural measures that allow controlling blood glucose levels.

However, if lifestyle changes are not enough to control sugar levels and if blood glucose levels are always too high, the doctor may advise the use of oral antidiabetic drugs or insulin, which is also important take regular blood glucose measurements at home using a blood sugar meter.

Diet for diabetes

One of the most important steps to control diabetes is the adequacy of the diet, which should be mainly based on reducing the consumption of sugar and foods rich in carbohydrates. Ideally, the diet should be guided by a nutritionist, who will pay attention to diabetes and personal tastes.

There are some foods that are considered "forbidden", because you should avoid eating them in excess, such as:

  • Sweets in general;
  • Sweetened drinks;
  • Alcoholic beverages.

Other foods, such as fruit, rice or pasta, although they can be eaten, should be consumed in moderation. There are also foods that help control diabetes better, such as whole grains, vegetables or oilseeds, for example.

This type of diet can be followed in cases of confirmed diabetes, but it can also be done by those who have pre-diabetes, as it allows them to regulate blood glucose levels, preventing the development of diabetes.

Diabetes in pregnancy

Diabetes during pregnancy, also known as gestational diabetes, is a relatively common condition that can occur even in women who have never had high blood glucose before.

This type of diabetes is due to the production of hormones by the placenta that partially block the effect of the body's insulin, causing blood sugar levels to rise more easily.

Gestational diabetes should be identified as soon as possible to avoid complications in the baby's development or premature birth. For this reason, during prenatal consultations, the doctor usually asks for glucose tests. Treatment consists of changing your lifestyle, eating a he althier diet and exercising, but in some cases it can also include the use of medication.

Diabetes in children

Diabetes can also develop in children, causing childhood diabetes. The most common type of diabetes during childhood is type 1 diabetes, however, with the dietary changes that have taken place over the years, type 2 diabetes has also become more common, mainly due to the excessive consumption of industrialized products, fast food and sugary foods, as well as an increase in physical inactivity.

See the most common symptoms in children.

Diabetes in childhood should be treated as early as possible to prevent developmental delays, as well as to prevent the onset of chronic diseases at a young age.

Possible complications

When diabetes is not treated properly, blood sugar levels can stay high for a long time and cause damage to various organs. For this reason, the main complications of diabetes include:

  • Cardiovascular diseases;
  • Neuropathy;
  • Retinopathy;
  • Deafness;
  • Diabetic foot;
  • Depression.

In addition, high sugar levels also increase the risk of infection, as sugar facilitates the growth and development of fungi and bacteria, and people with diabetes often have recurrent urinary infections, for example. By favoring the development of various microorganisms and by hindering blood circulation, diabetes also causes problems in wound healing.

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