If you do not have diabetes, chances are that your knowledge about the condition is limited. People with diabetes have to inject insulin or take a tablet (or both) and that’s that, right? No big deal.
While most of us think this way, diabetes is actually much more complex than that – and it can affect you, even if you’re slim or overweight and young or older. The Centre for Diabetes and Endocrinology (CDE) helps us break down some things that everyone should know about diabetes.
Busting a common Diabetes Myth and Misconception
You have type 2 diabetes if you are treated with tablets, and you have type 1 diabetes if you are on insulin.
That’s a Myth! - Type 1 and type 2 diabetes are different conditions defined by the underlying physiological problem and not by the treatment. Whilst people with type 1 diabetes always require insulin replacement therapy from diagnosis, over time, most people with type 2 diabetes will eventually require supplemental or replacement insulin therapy in addition to their oral medication. Even though they are using insulin, the latter still have type 2 diabetes.
So now that myth has been busted, here are 4 interesting facts about diabetes:
The ‘Classic’ Symptoms Of Diabetes Are Unmistakeable…
The ‘classic’ and specific symptoms of diabetes are due to the presence of glucose in the urine (glucosuria) secondary to high blood glucose levels. The classic symptoms include polyuria (excessive urination), polydipsia (excessive thirst), extreme fatigue and dramatic weight loss. You have to be brain dead to miss them!
The Symptoms May Be Unmistakeable, But Many Don’t Experience Them!
Yep! As crazy as that sounds, a huge number of people with type 2 diabetes are completely unaware that they have it - up to two thirds of Sub-Saharan Africans and over 50% of South Africans are undiagnosed. They do not experience any of the classic specific symptoms for many years, even though they have raised blood glucose levels and are at risk for health- and life-threatening complications (including a 2-4 times increased risk of heart attack and stroke). How can that be?
This is because their raised blood glucose levels may not be high enough to cause glucosuria and resulting symptoms. By the time a person is diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, they may have had the condition for as long as 12 years! Early diagnosis is important in order to avoid future complications but often delayed because of a lack of symptoms.
Diabetes is a Major Cause of Ill-health in Adults
Adults who lose their vision, who go into kidney failure or who experience a lower-limb amputation often find that diabetes is to blame. Of course, other genetic disorders, infections, and traumatic incidents can be responsible, but diabetes is the leading cause of these preventable problems. This is because, over time, high blood glucose levels damage the blood vessels supplying oxygen and nutrients to vital tissues and organs, resulting in impairment of their structure and function.
Diabetes is not all about bad news!
The good news is that
With proper treatment and lowering of blood glucose levels, any diabetes-related symptoms will disappear. However, the removal of symptoms does not mean the job is done!
Blood glucose still needs to be reduced further from the point at which symptoms appear/disappear to safe, near-normal levels where the risk of diabetes-related complications falls to a minimum. Early diagnosis and good blood glucose and other risk factor control with a person-centred, diabetes team approach can prevent or delay the onset of all of the potential diabetes-related complications.