All you need to know about Diabetes

A chronic disease that occurs when blood glucose, also called blood sugar, is higher than usual.

UNDERSTANDING MORE ABOUT DIABETES

What do you know about diabetes? In Germany, about 15.3% of the population suffers from diabetes, making it a very common illness. It is important to learn more about diabetes as well as the valuable information about all the contributing factors that get can help you be prepared and teach you how to live with it.

Diabetes is a chronic illness defined by high levels of blood glucose caused by the pancreas‘ lack of insulin (blood glucose regulating hormone) production or the body’s inability to effectively use the produced insulin. Glucose is a valuable source of energy that builds up muscles and tissue, therefore the body’s irregular use of this source can cause serious health issues. Unregulated elevated blood glucose levels can cause damage to the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys and nerves. You can find out more about diabetes in the next sections and discover more about each type of diabetes such as type 1, type 2, prediabetes, and gestational diabetes.

The MedWatcher app has a large database of various conditions and valuable expert information that can help you learn more about diabetes. If you wish to learn more, sign up here!

Type 1 is when the body’s production of insulin is lower than normal, requiring daily administration of insulin to level out the amount of blood glucose. People with type 1 diabetes require insulin for survival and always need to have ready insulin at hand. Type 1 is usually diagnosed from a young age, and is much rarer of a diagnosis than any other type of diabetes, with only 10% of global diabetes diagnoses.
Type 2 is characterized by the body’s inability to utilize insulin production properly. This type is usually the more common one, as it is 90% of the diagnosed diabetes globally, but is less noticeable than type 1. It is important to get blood work done if you fall under the risk category. However, type 2 can be prevented or delayed by following a healthy lifestyle.
Prediabetes is a very common occurrence, where 20.8% of the population from ages 19 to 79 have prediabetes, which happens when the blood glucose levels are higher than average but not high enough to be diagnosed with diabetes. Prediabetes raises the chance of developing type 2 and cardiovascular issues. However, this can be avoided by implementing a healthy lifestyle.

This type of diabetes is usually temporary and occurs during pregnancy which can potentially cause long-term risk for diabetes type 2. The blood glucose level is higher than normal but not as high to be considered diagnosed with diabetes. This can cause complications during pregnancy and delivery, potentially raising the likelihood of your baby having diabetes and developing type 2 diabetes later on in life. Often times after the birth of the baby, gestational diabetes goes away naturally

Normal functioning of insulin

Normal functioning of insulin

WARNING SIGNS

Diabetes can have various health complications, as we will cover later on, which is why it is important to keep an eye out for any symptoms to identify them early on. Depending on the levels of blood glucose increase, symptoms may vary. If you have the following symptoms, see a medical professional to get your blood work done.

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Type 1 diabetes symptoms are usually severe and come on fast, making it easy to identify this specific type of diabetes. Some of the symptoms you can experience are nausea, vomiting, and others: 

  • Stomach pain
  • Unusual thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fatigue and feeling weak
  • Blurred vision
  • Frequent infections
  • Slow-healing sores
  • Irritability
  • Numbness in limbs 
  • Itching

Type 2 diabetes symptoms are typically difficult to notice and can take longer to develop. It is important to determine if you fall into the risk category for type 2 diabetes, which we will discuss the diagnosis of in the next sections. The symptoms that can be a bit more unnoticeable and take longer to develop are still similar to the ones of type 1 diabetes: 

  • Unusual thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • UTIs or yeast infections 
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fatigue and feeling weak
  • Blurred vision
  • Frequent infections
  • Slow-healing sores
  • Irritability
  • Numbness in limbs 
  • Itching
Prediabetes is hard to identify because of the lack of clear symptoms, therefore, it is important to get your blood glucose levels tested. This type is very common, similar to type 2 diabetes, where about one in five people between the ages of 18 and 79 have prediabetes. Prediabetes can lead to type 2 diabetes if the right preventive measures are not taken.
This specific type of diabetes is not as common as prediabetes and type 2 diabetes, but is still prevalent in the German female population with about 5.9% of women giving birth in hospitals having had gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes usually does not show any symptoms, so it is important to determine if you fall into the risk category and get tested. However, it can demonstrate mild symptoms such as: 
  • Frequent urination 
  • Unusual thirst

WHEN SHOULD YOU SEE A DOCTOR?

If you or your child have any of the listed symptoms, contact your medical provider to get your blood work done for blood glucose levels. Once discovered early on, you can take the right preventive measures or begin your treatment sooner.

To discover your symptoms and identify whether they are the right condition of suspicion, sign up for the MedWatcher app which has an array of information available at your disposal. The app covers medical conditions, medications, other users’ experiences, expert advice, and useful guidance.

WHY DO WE GET DIABETES?

Diabetes-specific causes are unknown but are presumed to be due to genetic or environmental factors.

Type 1 diabetes-specific external causes are unknown but happen due to the pancreas‘ inability to produce a sufficient amount of insulin. The underlying causes for what triggers the dysfunction are yet unclear. The treatment methods are also unknown.

On the other hand, diabetes type 2 was found in more than 5.8 million people in 2016 and many prediabetes cases were left undiagnosed but are still as common, which are usually caused by bad nutrition, excess body weight, and lack of physical activity. The body’s inability to utilize the production of insulin properly is the reason for this diabetes.

Gestational diabetes causes are due to the overproduction of hormones during pregnancy causing weight gain which results in the body utilizing insulin less efficiently. This has an effect called insulin resistance which increases your body’s need for insulin.

Potential warning signs of diabetes

ARE YOU AT RISK?

Type 2 and prediabetes symptoms can be hard to identify, which makes the importance of finding out if you have any risk factors for diabetes much higher. If you have any of the risk factors listed below, make sure to contact your healthcare provider to get your blood work done and sign up for the MedWatcher app that can help you identify your conditions and find expert advice immediately.

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Type 1 diabetes-specific causes and risk factors are unknown and not identified, while type 2 diabetes and prediabetes are more common and understood. Some of the more identified risk factors are:
Type 2 diabetes is more common, where about 90% of the diabetes cases globally are of type 2 diabetes, and has clear risk factors as they are more likely to develop over time due to certain circumstances: 
  • Family: Anyone in the family with type 2 diabetes
  • Ethnicity: Some ethnicities are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes such as people of a Black African, African Caribbean, and South Asian background
  • Age: Usually develops with age
  • Prediabetes
  • Obesity/overweight
  • Previous gestational diabetes
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Smoking
It is possible for diabetes type 2 to go into remission if the right treatment and prevention methods are taken.

Similarly to type 2 diabetes, you fall into the risk category if you fall under one or more risk categories below:

  • Family: Anyone in the family with type 2 diabetes
  • Ethnicity 
  • Age: Usually develops with age
  • Obesity/overweight
  • Previous gestational diabetes
  • Lack physical activity
  • Smoking

At an early diagnosis of this type of diabetes, it is possible to reverse the effects through effective prevention measures.

Gestational diabetes is similar to type 2 diabetes and prediabetes in terms of risk factors:

  • Family: Anyone in the family with type 2 diabetes
  • Ethnicity 
  • Age: Usually develops from age 25
  • Obesity/overweight
  • Had gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy
  • Had a baby over the weight of 4.5 kg
  • Had weight-loss surgery 
  • Have a hormone disorder called polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

POSSIBLE HEALTH COMPLICATIONS

If diabetes is managed poorly there is a possibility for severe health complications that can have a detrimental effect on the costs and quality of life. There can be effects on your cardiovascular system and other organs that have various implications depending on the severity of your diabetes.

Exceptionally high levels of blood glucose have can trigger conditions such as diabetic ketoacidosis in type 1 and 2, hyperosmolar coma in type 2, and chronic kidney disease. Whereas, unusually low levels of blood glucose can cause loss of consciousness and seizures, which can strongly affect the quality of life of the individual.

Did you know that these conditions are connected?

When you prevent or manage one condition, you can help prevent or manage all three.

With time, if diabetes is not managed correctly, you can face problems with your heart, liver, kidneys, nerves, foot health, eyes, hearing, oral health, and even mental health. Every person’s likelihood of complications is based on their overall health, however, a diabetes patient has a higher chance of developing health-related issues than an average person.

Damage to these organs can cause reduced blood flow and combined with nerve damage can cause serious health implications such as infections which can later cause amputation due to the reduced ability to heal. Nerve damage and vessel damage can also cause hearing loss, vision loss, and other effects.

The most common complication is on the cardiovascular system and people with diabetes are two to four times more likely to develop serious cardiovascular issues than an average person. Due to the effects on the quality of life, mental health is strongly affected and can cause issues later on in life.

For gestational diabetes, there can be detrimental effects on the mother and the child such as fetal loss, stillbirth, birth defects, and other health consequences.

HOW CAN YOU TREAT DIABETES?

A common treatment method for all types of diabetes is keeping a healthy lifestyle with nourishing habits such as proper nutrition and physical activity, as well as monitoring blood glucose levels regularly.

For type 1 and type 2 diabetes, it is important to follow the right treatment measures as it is more severe and requires consistent management:

  • Insulin: Type 1 diabetes requires a consistent insulin injection to regulate blood glucose levels, which can be done through an automatic pump or a syringe. For type 2 cases, insulin injections might be needed for severe cases but are not as necessary.
  • Monitoring your blood glucose levels: Due to the body’s inability to produce the right amount of insulin or utilize it properly, it is important to always monitor your glucose levels through a continuous glucose monitor, glucose meters, and frequent blood tests. The insulin levels are volatile and require monitoring several times a day. Therefore, utilizing a continuous monitor could save time but would still need accurate checks through meters as the monitor could be inaccurate.
  • Medication: After being diagnosed with diabetes, you will be given medications to ingest orally, such as glucose tablets, blood pressure regulators, and others.
  • Weight loss surgery: In obese and overweight cases, you might need to undergo weight loss surgery to ease the pressure on the heart.
  • Transplantation: Islet cell transplants or pancreas transplants could be a long-term solution to challenges you are facing with diabetes. For example, stopping severe hypos with islet cell transplants and completely getting rid of insulin-related issues with a pancreas transplant.
  • Healthy lifestyle: Healthy nutrition and physical activity are also effective methods of managing diabetes. For type 1 this can help with the side effects of diabetes but can not be used to treat it, whereas for type 2 through lifestyle changes you can experience a remission.

The best way to prevent diabetes or treat prediabetes is to improve your current lifestyle habits such as having good nutrition and exercising or physical activity to lose weight. One of the biggest risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes is a high body mass index (BMI), therefore working towards a healthy BMI is vital for preventing diabetes. A recent study has shown that people who reach the recommended levels of physical activity are 30% less likely to develop diabetes than those who stay inactive. Implementing physical activity can be an effective method for treatment. The World Health Organization recommends at least 2.5 hours of aerobic physical activity per week. As for nutrition, managing your diet by implementing rich grains, fruits and vegetables, nuts, and legumes can decrease your risk of diabetes. Moderating alcohol intake, as well as lowering the consumption of refined grains, processed meats, and sugary drinks is an additional change that can be implemented for type 2 prevention. 

Medications can facilitate some of the severe side effects or be used as a treatment method when combined with other health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease.

Treatment for having a safe pregnancy with gestational diabetes is to follow healthy eating and exercise regularly, similar to prediabetes treatment, but mainly monitor your blood glucose levels heavily. Though active exercise is helpful, it is not necessary, especially during pregnancy and the focus should be shifted more onto nutrition. Managing your diet by implementing rich grains, fruits and vegetables, nuts, and legumes can help treat gestational diabetes or at least decrease the side effects. Avoiding alcohol intake, as well as lowering the consumption of refined grains, processed meats, and sugary drinks is an additional nutritional treatment for this diabetes. 

Depending on the levels, using insulin or other oral drugs could be an option for ensuring a healthy pregnancy and delivery. 

It is important to manage your diabetes well after receiving your diabetes diagnosis by maintaining a healthy lifestyle, monitoring your blood glucose, and other measures mentioned above. Find out more about how to live with diabetes.

HOW IS IT DIAGNOSED?

Diabetes is usually diagnosed through various tests that take a sample of your blood or saliva.

The A1C test measures your blood glucose levels over the span of two to three months. The results come in a percentage and the higher the number, the higher the level of blood glucose. Fasting is not required for this test.

Results for gestational diabetes can differ. Ask your health care provider what your results mean.
Source: American Diabetes Association

The random plasma glucose test measures your blood glucose levels at any time and does not require fasting.
A number of 200mg/dL or above indicates you have diabetes.

Results for gestational diabetes can differ. Ask your health care provider what your results mean.
Source: American Diabetes Association

The fasting plasma glucose test measures your blood glucose levels at a certain time after 8 hours of fasting, meaning no eating and drinking only a little bit of water. A number of 126mg/dL and above indicate diabetes and 100 to 125 mg/dL indicates you have prediabetes.

Results for gestational diabetes can differ. Ask your health care provider what your results mean.
Source: American Diabetes Association

The glucose tolerance test measures blood glucose levels before and after consuming a liquid with glucose. After fasting for 8 hours, your blood will be tested and then tested again 2 hours after you consume the glucose-contained liquid. A result of 200 mg/dL and above indicate diabetes. This testing method is often used for identifying gestational diabetes during pregnancy.

Diabetes can also be diagnosed through other tests.

Results for gestational diabetes can differ. Ask your health care provider what your results mean.
Source: American Diabetes Association

Through genetic testing, a sample of your saliva or blood will be taken to identify a mutation in the gene that causes monogenic diabetes, which develops in the early stages of childhood.

The autoantibodies test can help identify any autoantibodies through a blood sample, a protein that attacks the body, which indicates diabetes. This is typically used to diagnose diabetes type 1, especially if you fall into the risk category through hereditary ways.

The A1C test measures your blood glucose levels over the span of two to three months. The results come in a percentage and the higher the number, the higher the level of blood glucose. Fasting is not required for this test.

Results for gestational diabetes can differ. Ask your health care provider what your results mean.
Source: American Diabetes Association

The random plasma glucose test measures your blood glucose levels at any time and does not require fasting.
A number of 200mg/dL or above indicates you have diabetes.

Results for gestational diabetes can differ. Ask your health care provider what your results mean.
Source: American Diabetes Association

The fasting plasma glucose test measures your blood glucose levels at a certain time after 8 hours of fasting, meaning no eating and drinking only a little bit of water. A number of 126mg/dL and above indicate diabetes and 100 to 125 mg/dL indicates you have prediabetes.

Results for gestational diabetes can differ. Ask your health care provider what your results mean.
Source: American Diabetes Association

The glucose tolerance test measures blood glucose levels before and after consuming a liquid with glucose. After fasting for 8 hours, your blood will be tested and then tested again 2 hours after you consume the glucose-contained liquid. A result of 200 mg/dL and above indicate diabetes. This testing method is often used for identifying gestational diabetes during pregnancy.

Diabetes can also be diagnosed through other tests.

Results for gestational diabetes can differ. Ask your health care provider what your results mean.
Source: American Diabetes Association

Through genetic testing, a sample of your saliva or blood will be taken to identify a mutation in the gene that causes monogenic diabetes, which develops in the early stages of childhood.

The autoantibodies test can help identify any autoantibodies through a blood sample, a protein that attacks the body, which indicates diabetes. This is typically used to diagnose diabetes type 1, especially if you fall into the risk category through hereditary ways.

HOW MEDWATCHER CAN HELP YOU

A diabetes diagnosis can be very difficult news as it requires active changes in your lifestyle such as implementing a new regime and constantly monitoring your blood glucose levels. This can be rigorous to manage, especially when keeping track of all the treatment measures you have to take, such as the different types of medicine and other arising questions that you may have no answers to. Not only does this take a toll on your mental health, but it also can affect correct treatment measures.

MedWatcher is a digital health companion that allows you to discover insights about your medical conditions. With this app, you can learn more about the medicine that you need to take, explore other users‘ stories and experiences and compare your personal information on this condition with other users.

Not only does this allow you to understand what specific measures you need to take, but it also allows you to visualize your condition in comparison to other people making you feel the community around the topic of diabetes.

MedWatcher is an easy online tool that requires only 4 steps to start:

MedWatcher is an easy online tool that requires only 4 steps to start:

Register with Medwatcher

Enter your medications and conditions

Compare with other users

Get exciting insights

With MedWatcher, explore your health and medicines.
Easily. At any time. From anywhere.

With MedWatcher, explore your health and medicines.
Easily. At any time. From anywhere.

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