Millions of people have been diagnosed with diabetes, but many don’t realise they have the condition until it’s too late.

Some learn to accept the illness as a fact of life. However, there are still others who fail to adjust their lifestyle and make healthier choices.

But heed our warning: Diabetes is not a condition that can be taken lightly.
Causing 1.5 million deaths annually, diabetes is a chronic disease that involves the lack of or ineffective use of insulin in the body. It can also lead to debilitating conditions like kidney failure, stroke, blindness, and amputation.

But how do you get diabetes? Is it hereditary or acquired? And what is the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes?

Read on to get answers to the four most commonly asked questions about diabetes and learn other helpful facts about the disease from our endocrinology clinic.

How does insulin work?
Insulin comes from the pancreas. Its role is to regulate the human body’s use of sugar.
The cycle goes like this:
When sugar is in the bloodstream, the pancreas secretes insulin to help the cells absorb it. In turn, the sugar level in the blood drops. Upon detecting low sugar levels, the pancreas secretes less of the hormone.

As mentioned earlier, people with diabetes experience issues with insulin. It usually entails one of two things: either they cannot produce enough of the hormone, or their bodies fail to use insulin efficiently.

How does Type 2 diabetes differ from Type 1?
Diabetes comes in two forms, with each one relating to a particular issue with insulin:

  • Type 1 diabetes involves the insufficient production of the hormone.
  • With Type 2 diabetes, the issue lies in the body’s ineffective use of insulin.

Because of its nature, Type 1 requires regular insulin supplementation through injections, which is a pretty straightforward way to manage the disease.
On the other hand, Type 2 diabetes prevents the body from using its insulin supply efficiently.
People with this medical condition have also been known to develop insulin resistance, making supplementation an ineffective treatment.

Previously called juvenile, childhood-onset, or insulin-dependent diabetes, Type 1 requires daily insulin administration. However, its exact cause remains unclear.
Paediatric endocrinology experts and medical researchers discovered that environmental factors and genetics contribute to this disease. They believe that the illness emerges when the body’s own defences attack and destroy the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. This, in turn, is triggered by viruses or genetic anomalies.
On the other hand, Type 2 diabetes occurs because of two interrelated problems:

  • Muscle, fat, and liver cells become resistant to insulin. They interact with the hormone abnormally,
  • which causes them to fail in absorbing enough sugar from the bloodstream.

The pancreas cannot produce enough of the hormone to regulate blood sugar levels.
Although it’s not very clear why Type 2 diabetes occurs, being overweight and having an inactive lifestyle are ‌key risk factors for the disease.

The two types of diabetes have similar symptoms, such as:

  • Excessive urination (polyuria) and bedwetting in children
  • Thirst (polydipsia)
  • Constant hunger
  • Unexpected weight loss
  • Vision changes (e.g., blurry vision)
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Irritability and mood changes

The only difference is that Type 2 often has less marked signs and is more difficult to diagnose than Type 1.
Because of this, people with Type 2 diabetes ‌experience more complications upon diagnosis and treatment. This is because the disease has already been present for several years before the patient is able to get medical help.

Who is at risk for Type 2 diabetes?
Anyone can get diabetes, but the risk of developing a Type 2 is higher for people who:
Have a family history of diabetes
If you have a relative who’s been diagnosed with diabetes, then you are more likely to develop the disease compared to people without any family history of the illness.
The chances are higher when the family member with Type 2 diabetes is your sibling or parent.
But while genetic mutations have been linked to this illness, they only account for a small percentage of all diabetes patients. This means there’s still a good chance you can dodge the bullet, especially with a proper diet, regular exercise, and a healthy lifestyle.

Belong to certain races
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noted a higher prevalence of diabetes in the following communities:

  • African American
  • Latin American
  • American Indian
  • Alaska native
  • Asian American
  • Pacific Islander

However, there are various factors that contribute to this. The primary contributors could be biological and clinical, but social factors and systemic healthcare inequity could also be affecting this trend.

Have an inactive and unhealthy lifestyle
How you live your life could also determine your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Among the risk factors you should be wary of include:

  • Inactivity (lack of physical activity)
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol use

Those who live with an above-normal weight also have a higher risk of developing the disease.

Have certain medical conditions
Some medical conditions also contribute to the occurrence of diabetes, such as:

  • High blood pressure
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • Depression
  • History of gestational diabetes
  • Aged 45 years and above

Insulin production decreases as people age. Because of this, adults aged 45 or older have a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
Plus, the body composition of older people makes them more resistant to the hormone, causing an increase in their blood sugar levels.

How is Type 2 diabetes treated?
Although active research is underway, scientists have yet to develop a cure for diabetes.
Instead, doctors manage the condition and its symptoms with blood sugar regulation and insulin administration.
You can also do your part by adjusting your lifestyle, adding more physical activity to your daily routine, eating less sugary foods, and undergoing regular screening for potential complications.

Make your health a priority
Living with Type 2 diabetes isn’t as bad as you think. So long as you don’t neglect your health and listen to your doctor’s advice, you can make life sweeter even as you battle this lifelong disease.
Need to consult a specialist?
Visit us at Mediclinic or book an appointment with one of our doctors online.
We’re here to help you manage diseases like diabetes.