You might have diabetes, but not even know it. Or you might already have it yet are unaware as to what causes diabetes – a serious condition that affects many Singaporeans.
You may also hear diabetes called “diabetes mellitus” or “DM.” There are actually three different types of diabetes: Type 1, Type 2, and Gestational.
This article will talk about what causes diabetes and what the symptoms for each type are. We’ll also discuss how to treat each type of diabetes and what you can do to help yourself avoid developing any kind of diabetes in the future.
What is diabetes
Diabetes is a chronic, lifelong disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin. Insulin allows your cells to take sugar from food and turn it into energy.
When you don’t have enough insulin, sugar builds up in your blood instead of entering your cells where they can be converted to energy. This is essentially what causes diabetes for most people.
As mentioned earlier in this article, there are 3 primary types of diabetes:
- Type 1 Diabetes
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Gestational Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is a more severe type that usually occurs when someone has an autoimmune disorder and their beta cells, which produce insulin, start to stop working.
This form is commonly seen among young adults who get it from genetics or environmental factors such as diet, toxins, infections, etc., causing them to develop what doctors call “insulin-dependent.”
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes and it’s mostly seen in adults. It usually occurs when cells aren’t able to use insulin effectively because there isn’t enough or they’re resistant to its effects.
Gestational Diabetes is a condition that affects women and occurs as a result of high blood sugar levels during pregnancy.
Gestational Diabetes can occur in first-time mothers or women who already have children. In Singapore, Gestational Diabetes affects 13.8% of pregnant women each year, well above the global average.
It is not life-threatening, but if left too long it can lead to complications such as preeclampsia or even Type 2 Diabetes later on in life.
If left untreated type one diabetes could lead to nerve damage in your feet which may cause you some pain when walking. there are many prescription drugs as well as over-the-counter treatments available for managing Type 1 Diabetes. However, you should always consult with a doctor before trying any new medications or supplements.
Now, let’s go into more details. Here are the 3 main types of diabetes, its symptoms, and treatment options:
Type 1 Diabetes
Also known as juvenile-onset or insulin-dependent diabetes, Type 1 Diabetes is an autoimmune disease that causes a person’s pancreas to stop producing insulin (the hormone needed for sugar to enter cells).
Diabetes mellitus, or what you may call Type 1 Diabetes, often causes too much sugar in the blood.
The body produces insulin to keep blood sugars from getting too high but when an individual’s pancreas can’t produce enough of it due to a lack of insulin production or because they’re not responding well to their own naturally produced insulin for other reasons (such as Type 2), the person develops this condition.
This type often goes unnoticed for a long time before anyone realizes what has been going on. That not only makes diagnosis difficult but also increases the chances that complications will develop as time progresses (such as kidney failure).
This can be caused by lifestyle factors such as poor diet, obesity/ being overweight, lack of exercise. This form also tends to run in families due to inheritance issues with genes related to how our bodies produce insulin.
What are the symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes?
Symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes include:
- Weight loss
- Unusual thirst or hunger
- Frequent urination
- Nausea or vomiting due to high blood sugar levels
- Difficulty managing blood sugar on one’s own
- Feeling lethargic and/or slow all the time (low energy), even if you’re not doing anything physical because there isn’t enough insulin to keep you going like there should be
How to treat Type 1 Diabetes?
For Type 1 Diabetes, they need insulin injections for survival because they don’t produce any on their own. Type 1 diabetics also tend to weigh heavier than the average person. This is often due to increased appetite brought about by lack of sugar getting into cells; other common causes include stress.
Type 1 Diabetes condition can also be improved through diet and exercise. But if left untreated it could lead to nerve damage in your feet or blindness in one eye. There’s also an increased risk for heart attack, stroke, and other diseases as well.
Type 2 Diabetes
This type of diabetes typically begins in adulthood and can be linked with obesity, physical inactivity, family history, age over 40 years old. Type 2 diabetes is often found in people who are overweight and inactive, or what doctors call “insulin resistance.”
Insulin works to transport glucose into cells for energy but when someone has this condition it causes an insulin-resistant pancreas (a person’s body may have too many other hormones such as cortisol which interferes with their ability to produce insulin), meaning those who need more than normal amounts of insulin to keep sugars from getting out of control, develop Type II diabetes.
Type 2 diabetics don’t typically have any symptoms except if one blood test detects high sugar levels. It is usually diagnosed when a doctor runs tests of blood sugar and/or hemoglobin A-level over the course of two or more weeks.
What are the symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes?
Having higher levels of glucose in your urine and not having any ketones in your urine (ketones are byproducts of fat burning) can help identify if you have Type 2 diabetes.
It is important to know that diabetes isn’t always obvious right away. Warning signs may come and go. You might not have any for years and then suddenly a combination of symptoms pops up and catches you by surprise.
Nearly 80% of people with Type 2 Diabetes show no symptoms at all. The others, however, usually have symptoms like:
- Frequent urination
- Excessive thirst
- Intense hunger
- Blurred vision due to high or low blood glucose levels regulating the eye’s sugar content
- Tiredness or increased need for sleep from an increase in blood glucose levels
How to treat Type 2 Diabetes?
Type 2 Diabetes treatment includes taking oral medications with insulin shots (for severe cases).
There are newer forms that take up less space on hips called “analog” because they mimic how our own body produces insulin. And others who need injections only once daily instead of twice due to wearing off quickly.
In this case, it is important to have easy-to-eat snacks on hand that contain protein and carbohydrates – like peanut butter sandwiches or almonds for example.
Dr Ho Choon Kiat, a General Surgeon at Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore, advises diabetics to get their condition under control by following these steps: 1. Lose weight if BMI is more than 25 2. Cut down on high carbohydrate food like white rice, yellow noodles, and refined bread 3. Cut down on fatty food 4. Avoid canned or packet drinks 5. Exercise regularly, try to achieve 150 to 200 minutes of exercise per week
Pregnant women who have not previously had any risk factors for developing Type 2 or Gestational Diabetes may develop it during pregnancy. So, what causes diabetes for pregnant women? It’s primarily due to hormonal changes which affect their body’s ability to use insulin properly.
Gestational Diabetes usually goes away after the baby is born, but it can have effects on both mother and child. Mothers with Gestational Diabetes may experience preeclampsia or insulin resistance which could lead to complications for themselves and their babies.
Babies of mothers who had Gestational Diabetes are at risk for:
- Birth defects
- Low weight gain
- Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
- Hyperbilirubinemia (high levels of bilirubin)
- Respiratory distress syndrome (RDS)
- Preterm delivery
Gestational Diabetes affects about 3% of all pregnant women worldwide regardless of their age, weight, or ethnicity. In Singapore, however, that number goes up significantly up to 13%.
What are the symptoms of Gestational Diabetes?
Symptoms of Gestational Diabetes are similar to those of Type 2. It may include thirstiness during the day and night as well as increased urination. This is due to an overproduction of urine by the kidneys in response to high blood sugar levels.
How to treat Gestational Diabetes?
Women who have had Gestational Diabetes should continue tracking what they eat carefully even long after pregnancy has ended because this often leads to Type 2 Diabetes afterward if left unchecked.
Diet changes such as increasing protein intake while decreasing carbs and fat can help a lot when it comes to outliving these risks associated with Gestational Diabetes.
How to prevent getting Type 1 Diabetes
Maintaining healthy weight levels is one way that people can help decrease their likelihood of developing Type 1 Diabetes – so keep your diet in check. You could also try a low-carbohydrate or ketogenic diet as well since many people with diabetes have found that this helps.
A person’s risk for Type 1 Diabetes is also increased if they’ve had any of the following:
- Under 20 years old and not overweight or obese
- Have a family history of Type 1 Diabetes, especially in first degree relatives like parents/siblings
- Were born to a mother who has Gestational (Type 2) Diabetes or has given birth to other children with Type I Diabetes
- Have been diagnosed with celiac disease which means gluten intolerance – meaning those people will need to avoid foods high in carbohydrates such as grains, cereals, bread, pasta, and others. It may be harder on them since many food labels include these ingredients but there are some alternatives
The treatment recommendations for Type 1 Diabetes will depend on what kind of symptoms they have:
- If they don’t need any medication but still show symptoms, they’ll need to eat a healthy diet
- If they have symptoms and are using a medication, their treatment recommendations will depend on what type of medication is being used. For example, oral medications may be recommended if the person has high blood sugar levels but insulin injections may be required for those with low blood sugar levels
How to prevent getting Type 2 Diabetes
It’s important to know what you’re eating so that it’ll help your blood sugar levels stay under control. Some food suggestions include leafy green vegetables, fruit without added sugars. You should also avoid high-fat, processed foods.
Type 2 Diabetes is the most common type of diabetes and can be caused by obesity or genetics:
- If a person has obese parents, they are more likely to have this type of diabetes
- A person with overweight family members may not need medication but they will need to stay on a healthy diet and get regular aerobic exercise. Exercise won’t cure it though; medications might still be needed in order for your blood sugar levels to remain within an appropriate range
So, how to prevent getting Type 2 Diabetes?
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Eat nutritious foods and avoid sugary, fatty, and processed food products. Limit the amount of alcohol you drink too.
- Eat foods that are rich in fiber and nutrients, like vegetables. Avoid sugary drinks.
Drinking alcohol can lead to many health issues, including liver failure, cancer, and diabetes. According to Dr Ho Choon Kiat, a General Surgeon at Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore: "Most experts would say that a glass of wine or two a day should be safe. A glass of wine refers to a volume of about 150mls or 5 ounces. However, in life, things are more complicated. Alcohol is one of the most common cause of fatty liver. This may lead to chronic inflammation and cirrhosis. Once cirrhosis sets in, it is irreversible and the person is at high risk of developing cancer. Therefore one should also consider if he or she has other factors that predispose this person to fatty liver, such as obesity, diabetes, etc. If the person has other factors that predispose him/her to fatty liver, or if he/she already has fatty liver, then even a glass of wine per day may be too excessive. The person also needs to know if he/she already has some pre-existing liver disease such as Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C. In such situations, alcohol intake should really be taken in moderation, preferably infrequently."
How to prevent getting Gestational Diabetes
You might be able to prevent Gestational Diabetes or Type 2 Diabetes if you don’t smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol excessively, have high blood pressure, take estrogen supplements with an oral contraceptive pill, or use steroids.
Otherwise, these factors may increase the risk of developing Type 1 or 2 diabetes mellitus.
Here are some ways to prevent getting Gestational Diabetes:
- Eat a healthy and varied diet
- Exercise regularly, at least 30 minutes every day
- Don’t smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol excessively
- Avoid medications that increase the risk of diabetes (even if they are prescribed) such as steroid drugs. The doctor may prescribe insulin injections for Gestational Diabetes instead of oral medication because it is better absorbed by your body.
Just like any other illnesses or diseases, the better you understand what causes diabetes, the easier it will be to prevent from getting it.
So, now you know what causes diabetes and its various treatment options for each type: Type 1 Diabetes, Type 2 Diabetes, and Gestational Diabetes.
If you suspect that you may have diabetes or would like to know more about the condition, go to Smarter Health to arrange an appointment with a specialist today.