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Your Complete Guide to Diabetes

Thursday 30 April 2020
7 minute(s) read

Table of Contents

I. What is diabetes?

a. Diabetes insipidus vs. diabetes mellitus

b. Type 1 vs. type 2 diabetes

II. General symptoms of diabetes

III. Complications from diabetes

IV. Diagnosing diabetes

V. Treatment and medications

What is diabetes? 

Diabetes is a group of diseases that involve the processing of glucose in the body. Glucose provides energy for your organs and bodily systems. Glucose feeds the cells that make up the muscles and tissues of your body and also provides fuel for the brain. There are several different types of diabetes and each one is caused by different factors and has its unique form of treatment. 

a. Diabetes insipidus vs. diabetes mellitus 

Diabetes insipidus and diabetes mellitus differ greatly, but the symptoms can present themselves in similar ways. Both types make you very thirsty and cause you to urinate frequently. Diabetes insipidus is a rare condition in which the body makes a large amount of urine that is “insipid” or colorless.

The average person produces one to two quarts of urine a day, but those with diabetes insipidus pass between 3 and 20 quarts a day. This condition affects hormones in the body that balance liquids. Only one in every 25,000 people get this condition. Some symptoms of diabetes insipidus include:

  • Extreme thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Dehydration f
  • Muscle pains
  • Irritability[1] 

Diabetes mellitus is much more common, affecting around 100 million people. This type includes both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. This disorder occurs when the blood sugar levels are abnormally high and the body does not produce enough insulin. When people say “diabetes” they most often are referring to diabetes mellitus. [2] 

a water fountain

b. Type 1 vs. type 2 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that presents itself fairly early in life and is often referred to as juvenile diabetes.. Type 1 occurs when the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas are destroyed and prevent the body from producing enough insulin to regulate blood glucose levels. 

Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disorder that results in high blood glucose levels (hyperglycemia). This occurs when the body is ineffective at using insulin and/or the body is unable to produce enough insulin. If the body is unable to metabolize glucose then it may damage the organs in the body. This is a serious condition but can be reversible if a proper diet and exercise regime is adopted. Gestational diabetes can also occur in pregnant women. [3] 

General symptoms of diabetes

Because type 1 and type 2 diabetes both involve the processing and production of insulin, their symptoms are fairly similar. There are a few differences in determining these conditions, but you should consult your doctor if you notice anything out of the ordinary. 

Some general symptoms of diabetes include: 

  • Unusual thirst
  • Weight change (loss or gain)
  • Blurred vision
  • Tingling or numbness in the hands or feet
  • Trouble getting or maintaining an erection
  • Extreme fatigue or lack of energy

You may not notice symptoms of your diabetes condition at first, but it is important that you keep an eye on any difference in your usual body functions. Almost 30 million people in the United States suffer from diabetes and close to 8 million people are undiagnosed and unaware that they have it. [4] 

cotton candy

Complications from diabetes 

Diabetes is a serious condition and if it is poorly managed, then many medical complications can occur. These complications most often develop gradually and some complications may be disabling and possibly life-threatening. Read on for the most common complications from diabetes. 

  • Cardiovascular disease: Diabetes greatly increases the risk of heart problems and can lead to coronary artery disease, chest pain, heart attack, or stroke. The narrowing of blood vessels (atherosclerosis) can also occur. 
  • Nerve damage: When the body has too much sugar it can injure the walls of the capillaries. If these walls are damaged, then blood cannot reach vital parts of the body like the legs, which can lead to nerve damage. Nerve damage can lead to numbness or tingling in the tips of your toes or fingers. 
  • Eye damage: Diabetes can also damage the blood vessels in the retina and can lead to blindness. Vision problems are common in diabetes and can lead to severe side effects like cataracts and glaucoma. 
  • Foot damage: Foot problems often manifest themselves in diabetes patients. The lack of blood flow to the feet is caused by the damaged blood vessels that often accompany diabetes. If a cut or scratch on the foot becomes infected and left untreated, then a foot, toe, or leg amputation may be necessary.
  • Kidney disease: Diabetes’ effect on blood vessels can have a negative impact on the kidneys. The kidneys contain millions of tiny blood vessels, so if their function is inhibited then kidney failure or kidney disease may occur. 

Diagnosing diabetes

The symptoms of type 1 diabetes often appear suddenly and can lead to a series of tests to determine your blood sugar levels. Some symptoms are harder to identify than others, but you should screen for diabetes if: 

  • You have a body mass index higher than 25 or a family history of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or heart disease.
  • You are a woman who has had gestational diabetes in the past.
  • You have been diagnosed with prediabetes.
  • You are over 45 years of age. 

There are a few tests that doctors may perform in order to test your blood and determine your glucose and insulin levels. These tests can include:

  • Glycated hemoglobin (A1C) test:  This test does not require fasting and indicates the average blood sugar level over the past several months. This test determines the percentage of blood sugar attached to hemoglobin (the oxygen-carrying protein in red blood cells). The higher the sugar levels, the more hemoglobin is attached to the sugar. An A1C level of 6.5 percent or higher indicates the presence of diabetes. 
  • Random blood sugar test: This test will be taken randomly and determines the milligrams per deciliter of blood sugar. 
  • Oral glucose tolerance test: This test requires fasting overnight and then your blood sugar level is measured in the morning. You then drink a sugary liquid and your levels will be tested periodically for the next two hours. 

an insulin pen

Treatment and medications 

Type 1 diabetes cannot be cured, but in some cases, type 2 diabetes can be reversed if you follow a healthy lifestyle and take your medication properly. Read below for how to properly manage your diabetes.

  • Diet and exercise: There is no specific diabetes diet, but you should try to consume more fruits, lean proteins, and foods that are high in fiber and low in calories. You don’t have to completely give up sugary foods, but eating them in moderation can be okay with your doctor’s permission. You may have to keep track of your carbohydrate intake if you have type 1 diabetes. Exercising lowers your blood sugar level and increases your sensitivity to insulin, which helps your body transport sugar to cells. If you are physically able, 30 minutes or more of cardio can improve your overall health and diabetes condition.
  • Insulin therapy: Those with type 1 and type 2 diabetes need insulin therapy to function in their everyday lives. It depends on your diabetes condition, but insulin can be taken through oral medication, an insulin pump, or an injection through a fine needle. The insulin pump is a device the size of a cell phone that is worn on the outside of the body. A tube then connects this device to an insulin reservoir and is then inserted under the skin of your abdomen. 
  • Oral medications: There are many medications out there that help stimulate the pancreas to help produce more insulin. Medications like Januvia (sitagliptin) work by increasing incretins, which help control blood sugar by increasing insulin release. Other medications like Janumet combine sitagliptin and metformin to help control blood sugar levels. Metformin decreases the sugar production in the liver and lessens the absorption of glucose in the intestines. These medications are most often used to treat type 2 diabetes.[5]

The content in this article is intended for informational purposes only. This website does not provide medical advice. In all circumstances, you should always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health professionals(s) for drug, medical condition, or treatment advice. The content provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.