Introduction to Diabetes

Diabetes Mellitus is the common term for several metabolic disorders in which the body no longer produces insulin or uses the insulin it produces ineffectively. It is a chronic condition and is characterized by high blood sugars. Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas that enables cells to take in glucose from the blood and use it for energy. Failure to produce insulin, or of insulin to act properly, or both, leads to raised glucose (sugar) levels in the blood (hyperglycaemia). This is associated with long-term damage to the body and failure of various organs and tissues.

According to statistics released by the Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation, 2.7 to 11% of Kenyans are living with diabetes (variable according to rural/urban and geographical settings), a Kenyan epidemic that leaves many with minimal control of their chronic condition. An estimated 20,000 children are living with diabetes (an estimated 98% of who are totally insulin dependent – Type 1 diabetes and another 2% afflicted by type 2 diabetes). In addition to its more recognizable form as Type 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes is rapidly adding to the growing epidemic

Type 1 diabetes

Type 1 develops when the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the cells that produce insulin. As a result the body is unable to produce insulin and this leads to increased blood glucose levels. This can in turn can cause serious damage to all organ systems in the body if no measures are taken to adequately control blood sugar.

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes develops when the body does not produce enough insulin to maintain a normal blood glucose level, or when the body has insulin resistance and is unable to effectively use the insulin that is being produced.

Gestational diabetes

Gestational (GDM) is a form of diabetes, it refers to diabetes diagnosed for the first time during pregnancy. It develops in one in 25 pregnancies worldwide and is associated with complications in the period immediately before and after birth. GDM usually disappears after pregnancy but women with GDM and their offspring are at an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life. Approximately half of women with a history of GDM go on to develop type 2 diabetes within five to ten years after delivery. Other types of diabetes also exist e.g.

• Diabetes as part of other endocrine syndromes
• Drug induced Diabetes
• Pancreatic disease e.g. Pancreatitis
• Monogenic Diabetes (previously referred to as Maturity onset Diabetes of the young - MODY )

What are the signs of Diabetes?

Diabetes may present with the following:-

• Sudden weight loss or weight gain
• excessive thirst
• excessive urination
• fatigue/loss of energy
• Blurred vision
• recurrent infections
• Or no symptoms at all.

Who is most likely to get Diabetes?

• People with a strong family history of Diabetes
• People who are overweight or obese
• People who dont exercise
• People who smoke
• People who abuse alcohol
• People using steroids/cytotoxic drugs

Diabetes Prevention

Type 2 Diabetes can be prevented by adopting;

• healthy eating habits, especially consuming less sugar fat and salt
• regular exercise/ physical activity
• weight management through good meal planning and physical activity
• Stress Management
• Avoid alcohol/cigarettes (tobacco) This can delay the onset of Diabetes and even prevent the complications as result of Diabetes.

Have you ever been tested for Diabetes?