An Introduction to Diabetes ~ What is Diabetes?

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I know its been a while since the first article on the introduction and I haven’t made any progress with the topics. I am sure with this post, I will progress more in covering most of it.

Source: Written for Spice your Life, by Dr. Nagarathnam Jetty, MBBS,DPH,DIH,FIAOH.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a metabolic disorder. Metabolism is the way the body uses digested food for growth and energy. Glucose is the end product of our food after all the processes of ingestion, digestion, assimilation and absorption. Which means anything that is consumed, finally breaks down into glucose, the form of sugar in the blood.

Glucose is the main source of fuel for the body and is required for the production of energy. Once digestion is over, next comes the process known as the assimilation. After the digestion process, the glucose that passes into the bloodstream needs to be utilized by cells for growth and energy. To aid the glucose getting into the cells, we require a hormone called the insulin. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas (islets of Langerhans), a large gland behind the stomach.

In normal conditions, the pancreas automatically produces the right amount of insulin required for our body to absorb the glucose. In the diabetics, however, the pancreas either produces little or no insulin and in some cases there is insulin resistance and hence the glucose is not utilized. In that situation, glucose builds up in the blood, overflows into the urine, and passes out of the body in the urine.

Thus, the body loses its main source of fuel even though the blood contains large amounts of glucose.

Before we proceed to know how to diagnose, lets take a brief look at the types of diabetes prevalent.

What are the types of diabetes?

The three main types of diabetes are

* type 1 diabetes
* type 2 diabetes
* gestational diabetes

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease. Humans have a great Immune system to fight infection. But when this system turns against and starts attacking, especially the insulin producing beta cells, it results in type 1 diabetes. When this happens, the pancreas produces little or no insulin. A person diagnosed with type 1 diabetes must take insulin daily to live.

We do not know exactly why and what causes the body’s immune system to attack the beta cells, but they believe that autoimmune, genetic, and other environmental factors, could attribute to this condition.

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. We can easily say about 90 to 95 percent of people with diabetes have type 2. The major contributing factors for this form of diabetes is most often associated with older age, family history of diabetes, obesity, history of gestational diabetes, physical inactivity, and certain ethnicities. About 80 percent of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight.

In the case of type 2 diabetes, the pancreas is usually producing enough insulin, but for unknown reasons the body cannot use the insulin effectively, a condition called insulin resistance. When this happens over a period, insulin production decreases gradually. As in the type 1 diabetes, in type 2 too, glucose builds up in the blood and the body is not able to make efficient use of its main source of fuel.

Gestational Diabetes

Some women develop gestational diabetes late in pregnancy. Although this form of diabetes usually disappears after the birth of the baby, women who have had gestational diabetes have a 40 to 60 percent chance of developing type 2 diabetes within 5 to 10 years. Maintaining a reasonable body weight and being physically active may help prevent development of type 2 diabetes.

In the coming articles, we will see more about How to diagnose and other facts related to Diabetes.

Though most of it may sound very technical, I have tried writing in a style that can be understood by everybody.

I want everybody who reads this be benefited, to take action and act accordingly!


Looking forward to your feedback and suggestions.

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  1. Looking forward to the rest of the series. A big thanks to your dad, Valli, for taking time to write and putting it in simple terms for a layman to understand. The purpose is served.

  2. Hi Srivalli and Dr.Nagarathnam Jetty, thanks for doing this! this is very informative. I had GD for my 2 pregnancies and was warned i might get type diabetes that time itself! looking forward to more on this.

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