The Dangers of Diabetes

Diabetes is a condition that indicates that the amount of sugar or glucose in your body is high. This condition can lead to health problems like heart disease and stroke and can cause adult blindness, kidney failure and lower-limb amputation.


Diabetes is a chronic, incurable, life-threatening disease that affects the human body’s normal process of breaking down foods into energy and storing them. Food breaks down into different components.


One of the most important is glucose (sugar), the main source of fuel in the body.  After food is digested, the glucose passes into the blood stream, where it is available for the body’s cells to use. For glucose to be metabolized by the cells, insulin (a hormone produced by the pancreas) must be present. Insulin allows for the uptake of glucose into cells and results in a lowering of glucose level in the blood.  Too much or too little glucose can damage the body, and thus must be tightly controlled within a narrow range.


There are three types of diabetes which are Type 1, Type 2 and Gestational diabetes.


Type 1 diabetes results from the body’s failure to produce insulin due to a destruction of beta cells in the pancreas. This type of disease is typically contracted early in life and is called juvenile diabetes. Patients are dependent on external supply of insulin which helps them maintain their metabolism.


Type 2 diabetes is divided into two categories that are Type 2a and Type 2b diabetes. Type 2a diabetes affects lean patients and is caused by a gradual loss of beta-cell activity in the pancreas. Type 2b diabetes affects overweight and obese patients and is caused by decreased insulin sensitivity in the peripheral tissue and the reduced number of insulin receptors expressed in cells of obese patients.


Gestational diabetes occurs due to inability to appropriately metabolize glucose during pregnancy.

This kind of diabetes generally fades after pregnancy but sometimes develops into type 2 diabetes)


The Complications of Diabetes

1)      Short-term complications

a)      Hypoglycemia

  • Hypoglycemia is the lack of glucose in your blood
  • Occurs due to less food intake and exercise
  • Can be treated rapidly by eating or drinking anything with glucose
  • In case of loss of consciousness, medical help is absolutely necessary


b)      Hyperglycemia

  • Hyperglycemia is the accumulation of glucose in the blood
  • This is caused by insufficient insulin, overeating, inactivity, illness, stress or a combination of these.
  • A very high level of blood glucose or very low insulincauses a metabolic switch to ketones, potentially causing ketoacidosis, leading to serious illness and coma


2)      Long-term complications

a)      Mechanism of damage

  • Continuous oversupply of glucose to the bloodstream allows for increased reaction of the Glucose molecule with other components of the blood (who then cause follow-on reactions) and the surrounding tissue (either at increased rate, or beyond the capacity of the body to remedy).
  • Tissue loses its elasticity and gradually becomes swollen / dysfunctional, with drastic effects in the very fine blood vessel of the extremities or internal organs


b)      Major effects

  • Eye: Diabetic retinopathy ultimately causing vision impairment and blindness
  • Kidney: Diabetic nephropathy leading to kidney failure and ESRD, requiring dialysis
  • Nerves: Diabetic neuropathy leading to loss of tactile and other senses
  • Limbs: Combination of diabetic angiopathy and nephropathy ultimately requiring amputation
  • Heart Disease: 2 to 4 times more common
  • Stroke: 2.5 times more common
  • High blood pressure: 60-65% of diabetes


3)      Key Risk Factors

a)      Serious cases of diabetes occurs in those have crossed the age of 45

b)      Smoking and drinking are two major causes of diabetes

c)       Diabetes can also be genetic

d)      Pregnancy affects your body’s metabolism and can cause diabetes

e)      A new born baby weighing 9 pounds or more could have juvenile diabetes

f)       High blood pressure and abnormal cholesterol levels also affects diabetes

g)      Diabetes is also caused due to lack of physical activity

h)      Women with Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) are susceptible to diabetes


Diabetes in India

In the year 2007, 40 million Indians were diagnosed with diabetes. It is believed that the number will rise to 70 million people in the year 2025 and by the year 2030 India will have the largest number of diabetics along with China and USA.  Every fifth person with diabetes will be an Indian develop this condition approximately 10 to 15 years before the western population.


The following are a few obstacles faced in India:

1)      Management of diabetes is episodic instead of comprehensive

a)      Single-point provider without full support infrastructure

b)      Driven by patient initiative rather than a structured program

c)       Low adherence with established best-in-class practices


2)      Very low patient compliance, with life-threatening implications

a)      No proactive focus on patient education

b)      Lack of comprehensive care

c)       Difficult for patients to remember/ manage the condition


Reducing Disease Burden

The US Diabetes Prevention Programme and the Finnish Diabetes Prevention Programme and the Chinese Study have conclusively proved that lifestyle modification including weight loss, increased physical activity and dietary changes can prevent or delay the onset of diabetes. The need of the hour is direct public education to increase awareness about diabetes and its complications.


As serious as diabetes is, it can be controlled with the right amount of knowledge, changes and exercise.  So start taking your life seriously and do whatever is necessary to improve the quality of your life.


This information has been provided by Healthspring Community Medical Centres.