Complications of diabetes

Diabetes Mellitus represents a complex spectrum of metabolic disorders, principally defined by hyperglycemia resulting from defects in insulin action, secretion, or both. 

Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus (T1DM) is predominantly a consequence of autoimmune-mediated destruction of pancreatic islet beta cells, necessitating exogenous insulin for survival. This form of diabetes frequently manifests in the pediatric population. However, it can emerge at any age and is characterized by a rapid onset of symptoms such as polyuria, polydipsia, polyphagia, and significant weight loss.

Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus (T2DM) is predominantly associated with insulin resistance and a relative insulin deficiency. The pathogenesis is multifaceted, involving a complex interplay between genetic predisposition and lifestyle factors. Typically presenting in adults over the age of 35, T2DM can be insidious, often going undetected until complications arise. However, it is now increasingly diagnosed in younger individuals, paralleling the rising prevalence of obesity. Clinical manifestations may be subtle or absent, but it is common to encounter fatigue and recurrent infections as symptoms.

Gestational Diabetes Mellitus (GDM) is a hyperglycemic condition detected during pregnancy and requires careful management to mitigate maternal and fetal complications.

Additionally, certain forms of diabetes are secondary to other medical conditions, such as endocrinopathies or pancreatopathies or induced by medications.

Prediabetes refers to an intermediary metabolic stage where individuals exhibit impaired glucose tolerance or fasting glucose levels but do not meet the criteria for diabetes. This stage confers an increased risk for the development of T2DM and cardiovascular disease.

Treating diabetes well means knowing how the disease works in the body. T1DM requires lifelong insulin therapy, while T2DM management may range from dietary modification to oral hypoglycemic agents and, in some cases, insulin supplementation. Nutritional status varies widely among individuals with diabetes, and it does not conform to a singular phenotype—individuals with T1DM or T2DM can present across the spectrum from underweight to obesity.

In the domain of endocrinology, the management of diabetes is tailored to the individual, taking into account the specific type, its etiology, the patient's clinical profile, and the presence of comorbid conditions. The goal remains to achieve euglycemia and prevent or manage complications, thus improving quality of life.

Diabetes Mellitus
Types of diabetes

Diabetes Complications

Understanding diabetes complications is essential in both clinical practice and patient education. The spectrum of diabetes-related health issues spans both acute and chronic conditions.

Chronic complications emerge over time and, without proper management, can result in significant and irreversible damage.

  • Diabetic Retinopathy: A condition affecting the retina, diabetic retinopathy can impair vision. Early detection through regular screening is paramount for treatment and preventing vision loss.
  • Foot Complications: Diabetes can lead to severe foot issues, including ulcers and infections, primarily due to neuropathy and poor circulation. Prompt attention to changes in sensation or appearance is critical in preventing serious outcomes, such as amputation.
  • Cardiovascular complications: Persistently elevated blood glucose levels can inflict damage on blood vessels, increasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
  • Diabetic Nephropathy: Over time, diabetes can impair kidney function, leading to difficulty in managing fluid and waste in the body, often exacerbated by high sugar levels and hypertension.
  • Neuropathy: High blood sugar levels can lead to neuropathy, affecting nerve signaling and impacting vision, sensation, and movement.
  • Oral Health Issues: High blood glucose levels can increase sugar in saliva, fostering bacteria that lead to tooth enamel erosion and gum disease. Vascular damage in the gums can increase susceptibility to infection.
  • Cancer Risk: There's a noted correlation between diabetes and an elevated risk for certain types of cancer. Additionally, some cancer therapies can complicate diabetes management.
  • Sexual Dysfunction: In women, diabetes can lead to reduced blood flow to sexual organs, reducing sensation and increasing the risk of infections like thrush and urinary tract infections. In men, vascular and nerve damage can lead to erectile dysfunction.

Acute complications, on the other hand, can occur suddenly and, if not treated timely, can result in chronic complications.

  • Hypoglycemia: Low blood sugar levels, or 'hypos,' can occur rapidly and require immediate treatment.
  • Hyperglycemia: High blood sugar, or 'hypers,' can lead to serious conditions if not treated.
  • Hyperosmolar Hyperglycaemic State (HHS): Previously referred to as HONK (hyperglycaemic hyperosmolar non-ketotic coma), this is a serious complication of diabetes mellitus, most often seen in type 2 diabetes, where there is a severe rise in blood sugar levels without the presence of significant ketones in the blood or urine. HHS is a critical condition resulting from severe dehydration and elevated blood sugar.
  • Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA): This is a severe life-threatening condition primarily associated with type 1 diabetes, where a lack of insulin leads to a dangerous rise in blood sugar levels. This insulin deficit forces the body to break down fats for energy, producing acidic by-products known as ketones. As ketones accumulate, they cause the blood to become too acidic, disrupting the function of vital organs. Early symptoms may include intense thirst, frequent urination, vomiting and nausea.

To prevent and manage these complications, people with diabetes must keep a close watch on their health, catch any issues early, and make healthy life choices like eating right and staying active. Sometimes, they'll also need medicine to maintain their blood sugar levels and stay healthy.

Diabetes complications
Complications of diabetes
DKA diabetes

Role of Insulin in Diabetes Management

Insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, is crucial for regulating blood glucose levels by helping the body store and use sugar. For those managing diabetes, understanding the various types of insulin and their timing is key. Rapid-acting insulin starts lowering blood glucose within 15 minutes and is effective for a short duration, making it suitable for mealtime glucose control. Short-acting insulin acts slightly slower, beginning within 30 minutes. Intermediate-acting insulin, including NPH, offers a longer duration of blood sugar control, suitable for part of a basal insulin regimen. Long-acting insulin mimics the body's natural, low-level insulin secretion and lacks a pronounced peak, providing a stable effect for up to 24 hours. Familiarity with terms like onset (when insulin starts working), peak (when it's most effective), and duration (how long it works) is essential for optimal diabetes management.


World Diabetes Cases

By the year 2035, we're expecting a big jump in diabetes, with 55% more cases around the world. Right now, China and India have the most people with diabetes. But it's not just there; places like South America, Africa, and the Middle East will see many more cases, too. We need to prepare by helping people live healthier and ensuring everyone can get the care they need to prevent and treat diabetes.

World diabetes cases

A word From Viasox

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