What is diabetes mellitus?
Diabetes mellitus is more commonly known just as Diabetes. This is a condition in which the body is unable to regulate blood glucose levels within normal limits. It is important to have good blood glucose control because poor control may result in long-term complications, affecting organs such as the eyes, kidneys, heart and nerves.
There are two common types of diabetes mellitus:
- Type 1 diabetes typically affects very young individuals and results from little or no insulin in the body. Type 1 diabetes necessitates treatment with insulin and is otherwise life-threatening. This disorder is usually autoimmune in aetiology.
- Type 2 diabetes mellitus is a disease that typically affects older patients than type 1 diabetes and is associated with an increased resistance to the effects of insulin. Although these patients produce excess insulin, it is still insufficient for controlling blood glucose levels adequately. Patients with type 2 diabetes can be managed with diet, tablets and in some cases injectable treatments. Type 2 is more common than type 1 and accounts for 80-90% of all patients with diabetes mellitus.
What causes type 2 diabetes?
This condition usually develops as one gets older and when multiple risk factors combine. These risk factors include a family history (or genetic predisposition) of type 2 diabetes: weight gain, obesity, a sedentary lifestyle and particular medication. Type 2 diabetes is also more common in certain ethnic groups, e.g. South Indian Asians.
What are the symptoms of diabetes mellitus?
The classical symptoms include:
- Weight loss
- Passing excessive amounts of urine
- Feeling thirsty
Patients may also experience an increased frequency of infections including thrush, skin and urine infections. Some patients may also complain of blurred vision. In the early stages of the disease however, these symptoms may not be present. In such individuals, disease may only be detected with blood or urine tests.
How is type 2 diagnosed?
Diabetes is usually diagnosed by measuring blood glucose. In patients with symptoms, a random glucose greater than 11 mmol/L is sufficient to diagnose diabetes mellitus. In a patient who has no symptoms, two fasting glucose levels of 7 mmol/L or greater are sufficient to diagnose diabetes. Whether a patient has type 1 or type 2 diabetes is dependent on the clinical presentation and other blood and urine tests. Although urine tests can detect glucose in the urine, these are not used to diagnose diabetes, but are rather indicators of a problem.