Diabetes, often referred to by doctors as diabetes mellitus, is a long term condition that causes high blood sugar levels i.e., it is a condition that prevents the body from properly using energy from food. It occurs when the pancreas does not produce insulin, or when the pancreas produces insulin, but it is resisted by the body.

Although diabetes is a commonly used term, most people don’t know exactly what diabetes is. Food when eaten, it is broken down into glucose or sugar. Though many health experts insist on not having too much sugar in the diet, some amount of glucoses is required to help regulate the metabolism and give energy.  During digestion, glucose moves through the body through the bloodstream to feed the cells. To be able to transfer the Blood sugar into the cells, the body needs insulin, which is made by the Pancreas and released into the bloodstream. The problem happens when there is too much blood sugar in the body compared to the amount of insulin that the pancreas is providing. If the body is not making enough insulin to keep up with the amount of sugar in the bloodstream, or if the body is having trouble making insulin, the glucose in the blood remains there and causes blood sugar levels to elevate which may lead to diabetes.


Type 1 Diabetes: The symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes progress very quickly. Consult a general physician upon the earliest signs of the below symptoms:

  • Frequent urination
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Increased thirst
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Weight gain
  • Slow healing
  • Excess sleeping
  • Blurred vision

Type 2 Diabetes: The symptoms of Type 2 diabetes include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Increased thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Recurring skin, gum and bladder infections
  • Dry, itchy skin
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Slow-healing cuts and bruises
  • Loss of feeling in the feet
  • Tingling feet

Type 1 Diabetes: The cause of Type 1 Diabetes has not been established yet. It is, however, largely influenced by the following factors:

  • Family history: Type 1 diabetes could be inherited from a parent or a sibling. If a parent or sibling has type 1 diabetes, the risk of diabetes increases for the offspring.
  • Genetic factors: Certain genes have a predisposition to contracting type 1 diabetes.
  • Geography: Cultures farthest from the equator witness more cases of type 1 diabetes than those located close to the equator.
  • Age: Type 1 diabetes normally spurts during two periods — between the ages of 4 to 7 and 10 to 14.

Type 2 Diabetes: A direct cause of type 2 diabetes has not been found, however, the following factors play a role:

  • Age: Risk of type 2 diabetes increases drastically with age especially over the age of 40.
  • Genetics: Type 2 diabetes may be inherited from a parent. If one parent has type 2 diabetes then there is a 1 in 3 chance their offspring would have it too.
  • Weight: Obesity, particularly fat accumulation around the abdomen, increases the risk of type 2 diabetes.
  • Inactivity: People who remain inactive for long periods of time have elevated blood glucose which can lead to diabetes.
  • Ethnicity: Research has found that individuals from India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Pakistan and other South-Asian countries are 6 times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
  • Cholesterol and triglycerides: People with low HDL cholesterol or high triglycerides are more prone to getting diabetes.
  • Prediabetes: People who are prediabetic are at very huge risk of having diabetes. Prediabetes is a condition where the blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough to declare diabetes.

Impaired glucose tolerance or impaired fasting glycaemia: A condition where blood sugar levels are naturally higher than normal.

Type 1: Diabetes is an Autoimmune disease where the pancreas produces very little insulin or no insulin at all. People who get Type 1 diabetes are  under the age of 20, usually presenting itself when the person is a child or young adult.
Some scientists believe that Type 1 diabetes is a genetic condition where the cells of the Pancreas are attacked and then stop functioning.

Type 2:Type 2 diabetes is normally found in people who are overweight as they get older. Although it is sometimes called adult onset diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is sometimes considered a lifestyle disease because it is normally triggered by living a fairly sedentary life, being overweight and not participating in exercise. However, age is a factor as well as heredity. If a parent or sibling develops Type 2 diabetes later in life, a person has greater chances to getting Type 2 diabetes as well.

The following tests will help ascertain whether you have type 1 diabetes:

  • Urine test checking for ketones and glucose. This test can be self-administered. There are ketone tests available at pharmacies that require urine to be spread on a strip. The strip changes colour indicating the amount of ketones present in the urine. The ideal ketone result varies from person to person, however a normal range would be 20 mg/dl to 40 mg/dl. If you have any result above this, consult with your physician.
  • Random glucose test or finger prick test. This tests the amount of glucose in your blood. A normal blood sugar level two hours after eating is less than 140 mg/dl.
  • Fasting glucose test. This tests the amount of glucose in your blood stream while fasting. Do not consume any food for 8 hours prior to the test. A normal fasting blood sugar level is between 70 to 99 mg/dl. A higher level would indicate diabetes.

If the urine test detects ketones and the blood test shows high blood glucose levels, this means you have type 1 diabetes. In such cases, you will be referred to a diabetes specialist called an endocrinologist.

Type 1 diabetes: It does not have any cure. It can, however, be managed by taking insulin and monitoring blood glucose levels. Insulin may be administered in the following two ways:

  • Insulin injections: insulin is manually injected into the bloodstream through a syringe or a syringe pen with replaceable cartridges.
  • Insulin pump: an insulin pump is a small device that injects small doses of insulin into the body throughout the day. The rate of pumping insulin is called the basal rate and it is very similar to the body’s natural mechanism of producing insulin. The basal rate is based on your dietary habits and your body’s special needs. An extra dose of insulin called a bolus dose can be injected through the device should you require it.
  • Monitoring Yourself

Since diabetes has no cure, strictly monitoring the disorder and its progression is the only way to live a healthy life. You can keep track of diabetes in the following ways:

  • Use a glucometer. A glucometer is a device that allows you to check glucose levels at any time. To do a glucometer test you, should prick your finger and spread a drop of blood onto the glucometer strips. The device will then scan the strip and show you your blood glucose level. Your ‘ideal’ blood glucose range will be specific to you, but a general range for adults with type 2 diabetes is:
  • Before meals: 4 to 7mmol/litre
  • After meals (two hours after a meal): less than 8.5mmol/litre

Before meal glucose test are more reliable than after meal tests.

  • Have your levels of HbA1C tested at least once a year. The HbA1C test will measure how well blood sugar levels have been controlled over the year. The test is done by taking blood from a vein or by pricking a finger.
  • Have your doctor conduct a complete checkup of your condition and the state of diabetes at least once a year.
  • Hypoglycaemia

Sometimes diabetes medication may cause hypoglycaemia or low blood sugar. In such cases, you may begin to feel dizzy and faint. People on beta-blockers or insulin injections should be cautious of lowering their blood sugar by too much. Hypoglycaemia can be managed by having glucose tablets or eating something sweet and sugary immediately.

Type 2 Diabetes: Type 2 diabetes does not have a cure, however, it can be managed and controlled. There is a varied set of treatment options available to control type 2 diabetes. Some diabetics are able to manage with a few lifestyle changes, whereas some require a more advanced form of treatment. These forms include exercise, medication and insulin injections. Your treatment plan will depend on your doctor, your needs and your body’s requirements.

  • Lifestyle changes

The following lifestyle changes will help control your blood glucose levels:

  • Eat a healthy balanced diet at regular intervals, three times a day. This allows the body to develop a stable pattern of metabolising glucose. Make sure to consume carbohydrates through food. Pastas and potatoes normally contain high amounts of carbohydrates.
  • Attempt at least 50 minutes of moderate exercise three times a week. Exercise will break down glucose and thus maintain blood glucose levels. The exercise can be performed in bouts of 10 minutes of more. Exercise such as dancing and walking have shown amazing results amongst the elderly.
  • Ask your doctor about safe alcohol consumption. Alcohol decreases blood glucose levels drastically. Therefore, the amount of alcohol consumed should be monitored and kept well within the recommended limits.
  • Smoking is extremely dangerous for diabetics. Diabetes puts you at a risk of heart disease and circulatory problems. Smoking furthers these risks.

There are structured education classes that teach you how to monitor yourself and look after the condition. Ask your endocrinologist about these lessons. They can go a long way in understanding and dealing with diabetes effectively.

  • Medication

If type 2 diabetes progresses, your doctor may prescribe medicines. Currently, there are a wide variety of medications for diabetes. The following are the most common:

  • Metformin: Glucose is stored in the liver and it is released into the bloodstream when needed. This release of glucose from the liver can spike blood glucose levels, causing damage to the eyes, kidneys, feet and heart. Metformin reduces the amount of glucose the liver releases, thereby controlling blood glucose levels. Metformin may also improve the way your muscles use glucose.
  • Insulin secretagogues: Helps the pancreas produce and secrete more insulin, thereby maintaining blood glucose levels.
  • DPP-4 inhibitor: A type of medicine that aids the body in producing insulin whenever needed.
  • GLP-1 agonists: This drug is injected into the bloodstream with syringes. It helps the body produce insulin when needed. It also reduces appetite and aids in weight loss.
    • Pioglitazone: This drug helps reduce insulin resistance and aids the body in using insulin to energise cells with glucose. However, this drug increases the risk of bladder cancer.

    Your doctor will choose your medication based on the state of your body, the state of diabetes and your personal lifestyle requirements. Therefore, mention all important information to your doctor. Also, question and understand the effect of the medication on your body to ensure personal safety.

    • Insulin injections

    If all else fails, insulin injections may be administered to control diabetes. Insulin will be injected into the bloodstream through a syringe or a syringe pen that has replaceable cartridges.

    Insulin injections may have to be taken once or twice a day. You will be asked to monitor your blood glucose level by a self-test through glucometer. A glucometer is a device that allows you to check glucose level at any time. To do a glucometer test, you should prick your finger and spread a drop of blood onto the glucometer strips. The device will then scan the strip and show you your blood glucose level.

    Your ‘ideal’ blood glucose range will be specific to you, but a general range for adults with type 2 diabetes is:

    • before meals: 4 to 7mmol/litre
    • after meals (two hours after a meal): less than 8.5mmol/litre

    Before meal glucose test are more reliable than after meal tests.

Current Category: Diabetes
Ask a Question about Diabetes

Most helpful questions for this topic: