Diabetes – what is it?
Diabetes is one of our most common public health diseases and is caused by high blood sugar (glucose) levels in the blood. The condition is called hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) and is caused by reduced insulin levels and/or insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone that is created in the pancreas and its main function is to regulate the blood sugar level in the blood. When the balance of the blood sugar doesn’t work, troublesome symptoms often occur. With GetTested’s diabetes and blood sugar test, you get a picture of your blood sugar levels that can indicate if you are at risk for type-2 diabetes.
Diabetes has become a major public health disease. Diabetes is diagnosed when there is too much glucose (sugar) in the blood. Glucose is the body’s most important fuel and provides the body with the necessary energy for it to be able to function. Insulin is secreted from the pancreas whose main function is to keep blood glucose levels even (within the range of 3.3 to 7.0 mmol/L).
Diabetes is caused by either decreased secretion of insulin from the pancreas, a decreased effect of the insulin (insulin resistance), or both. A certain amount of glucose always circulates in your bloodstream. Insulin acts as a key that “opens the door” for the glucose to get into the cells. We get glucose through food and drinks so that it can enter the cells to be converted into the necessary energy that the body needs, while keeping blood glucose levels within a specific range (3,3 to 7.0 mmol/L). Without insulin, glucose cannot enter the cells and remains in the bloodstream. The result is that blood sugar levels rise, especially after a meal, and when this happens continuously over a long period of time, diabetes develops. At this stage, the body will tell you that something is wrong through various symptoms.
There are two main types of diabetes, type-1 diabetes and type-2 diabetes. The effects of untreated conditions are similar for both; high blood sugar with subsequent diseases such as cardiovascular disease. However, the underlying cause differ.
People with type-1 diabetes do not have their own insulin production. This type is caused by autoimmune processes attacking the pancreas so that it cannot produce enough of the hormone insulin. The reaction can be triggered by infections, vaccinations and allergies/intolerances – especially dairy protein and gluten. Type-1 diabetes is often called juvenile diabetes as it often debuts at a young age. Type-1 diabetes is treated with insulin injections based on daily regular blood sugar measurements and adjusted insulin doses. Insulin doses are affected by what you eat and how physically active you are.
Type-2 diabetes means that the cells in the body have reduced ability to produce insulin and/or reduced sensitivity to insulin (insulin resistance), which results in the body requiring more and more insulin. When the insulin is not enough, the blood sugar rises and if the blood sugar becomes too high, sugar molecules can get stuck on proteins in the body, which means that the sugar is glycated. Negative effects of glycation are vascular damage, kidney damage, etc. Your blood sugar levels are affected by high sugar and carbohydrate intake as well as the amount of physical activity. By continuously measuring your blood sugar, you can prevent the risk of developing insulin resistance and type-2 diabetes.
What’s tested for?
GetTested’s Diabetes Test gives you a picture of your blood sugar levels over a longer period of time and an indication of whether you are at risk for type-2 diabetes. Blood sugar is counted as high if it is higher than 6.1 mmol / litre after 12 hours of fasting. Fasting blood sugar is affected, for example, by stress (increases the value) and by physical activity (lowers the value). Therefore, a marker is also used that shows measures of how the blood sugar has been over time. This marker is called HbA1c and is a blood protein that shows how sugar-coated the hemoglobin (Hb) in the red blood cells are. This should show that a maximum of 6.5 percent of the blood sugar has been glycated (sugar coated).
High blood sugar can lead to type-2 diabetes, but by continuously measuring your blood sugar, you can reduce the risk of developing insulin resistance and type-2 diabetes. The symptoms of diabetes are many and often quite diffuse. When the blood sugar level becomes excessively high, the body responds by getting rid of glucose via the urine. When this happens, various symptoms occur in the body:
- Increased thirst
- Frequent urination
- Abnormal fatigue
- Strong feelings of hunger
- Weight loss
- Poor wound healing
- Dry and itchy skin
- Tingling in the hands and feet
- Sexual dysfunction
- Blurred vision
When talking about diabetes, it is usually related to high blood sugar, but having too low blood sugar is of course not good either. Too low blood sugar can affect type-1 diabetics when they take too much insulin. The first symptoms of low blood sugar are fatigue, irritation and tremor and these symptoms can affect even a fully healthy person. For a person with type-1 diabetes, it can go even further and result in slurred speech and unconsciousness. In the worst case, a drop in blood sugar for type-1 diabetics can lead to death. However, the body has many spare mechanisms to avoid this and raise blood sugar such as raising the levels of the stress hormone adrenaline.
The early stages of diabetes can be managed through a healthy diet and physical activity to keep blood sugar levels steady. Type-1 diabetes must be treated with insulin injections and requires medical attention. Type-2 diabetes can be treated with medication in the form of tablets that increase insulin sensitivity or the release of insulin. Worse cases of type-2 diabets might also require insulin treatment.