Diabetes mellitus : Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Diabetes mellitus is an health condition that threatens the continuity of life and when left untreated it can cause damage to the kidney, eyes, nerves and other vital organs in the body. According to WHO, in 2016 an estimated 1.6 million people died from diabetes and another 2.2 million deaths were linked to high blood glucose in 2012. Today’s article will be focused on the description of diabetes mellitus, causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment.

What is Diabetes Mellitus?

Diabetes mellitus often refered to as “diabetes” is an health condition that is characterized by inability of the pancreas to produce insulin or failure of the body to effectively utilise the insulin produced. Insulin is a hormone that is necessary to regulate blood sugar in the body and it’s shortage will result into high blood sugar.
When you eat or drink food that contains carbohydrates, the food is broken down and converted to glucose, then transported through the bloodstream to the cell of the body where they are needed to produce energy required for daily activities. In a situation whereby the amount of glucose in the blood rises, the pancreas will release more insulin to control and reduce the glucose level, people who have diabetes do not produce enough insulin to regulate the amount of sugar in their blood or their body do not make use of the insulin that is produced from the pancreas thereby leading to high blood sugar (diabetes mellitus).

Types of Diabetes mellitus

The major types of diabetes include :
Type 1 diabetics
Type 2 diabetics
Gestational diabetes

Type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes also known as ‘juvenile diabetes’ is a condition whereby the pancreas fails to produce insulin that is necessary to regulate the amount of sugar in the bloodstream. People with type 1 diabetes are insulin-dependent and they need to take insulin injection daily to keep them healthy and alive.

Types 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes also known as “adult-onset diabetes” is a chronic health condition that is characterized by the inability of the body to effectively use insulin. In type 2 diabetes the pancreas produces insulin but the body becomes resistant to it and sugar continues to pile up in the bloodstream. It occurs more often in adult, people who are overweight and those who lack physical activities. The increasing number of type 2 diabetes in children is linked to obesity. You can control type 2 diabetics by maintaining a healthy weight, regular exercise and healthy diet development.

Gestational diabetes

This is the development of diabetes during pregnancy. And it is caused by hormonal changes which affect the ability of the insulin to work effectively. Pregnant women who are at risk of gestational diabetes are those that are overweight and those who have family history of diabetes.
It is important to note that gestational diabetes does not occur in all women and the blood sugar returns to normal after birth, but there are higher risk of the mother and child to develop type 2 diabetes in the future. Gestational diabetes can cause serious complications during pregnancy and childbirth.


This is when the blood sugar is higher than the normal range. In prediabetes the blood sugar is not high enough to be diagnosed of type 2 diabetes, but there are higher risk of the person to develop type 2 diabetes in the future.

What is Hypoglycemia?

Hypoglycemia is an health condition that is characterized by low blood sugar. Sugar is essential for providing the energy that is required to run daily activities. However the level of sugar in the blood must be moderate to maintain good health. Low blood sugar can present symptoms such as shakiness, sweating, frequent hunger, dizziness, moodiness, anxiety and headache. This condition can be treated and managed by consuming foods or drinks that is high in sugar such as fruit juice, cakes, sugary drinks and candies.

What does Hyperglycemia means?

This is referred to as high blood sugar (diabetes mellitus). It is caused by the inability of the pancreas to produce insulin or the body to utilise the insulin produced. People with hyperglycemia exhibit symptoms such as frequent urination, fatigue, blur vision, increased hunger and rapid weight loss. Hyperglycemia can be treated and managed by maintaining a healthy weight, eating healthy food, and increasing physical activities.

Meaning of Diabetes insipidus

Diabetes insipidus is a condition whereby the kidney removes excess fluid (urine) from the body. It has nothing to do with insulin production or usage. People with diabetes mellitus have high blood sugar due to the inability of the body to utilise insulin or produce it while people who have diabetes insipidus cannot control the amount of urine they excrete.

The prevalence of diabetes in the United States

Diabetes is associated with the inability of the pancreas to produce insulin or failure of the body to make use of the insulin produced. According to the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC);

  • Diabetes affects 34.2 million people in the United States and 6.84 million of them don’t even know they have it.
  • Untreated diabetes is the number one cause of severe kidney damage, nerves damage, stroke, adult blindness and lower limb amputation.
  • The seventh leading cause of death in the United States is diabetes

Based on the statistical facts released by the American Diabetes Association(ADA), the following are the statistics of the prevalence of diabetes in United States;

  • In 2018, 10.5% of American population has diabetes
  • Out of 34.2 millions of Americans that are living with diabetes, 26.8 million were diagnosis and 7.3 million were left undiagnosed.
  • About 1.5 millions of Americans are diagnosed with diabetes annually.
  • In 2017 $327 billion was spent on diagnosing diabetes in the United States.

Causes of Diabetes

The condition that can cause diabetes are below:

Type 1 diabetes

The doctor don’t know the exact cause of type 1 diabetes. However, the immune system which protects the body against pathogens and infections may attack and destroy the cells that produce insulin in the pancreas. This health condition will result into little or no production of insulin hormone that is necessary to regulate blood sugar (glucose). Genetics constitution or family history of the disease can lead to the development of type 1 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is caused by two major factors which are; genetic constitution and lifestyle factors.
The genetic constitution is the family medical history linked to the disease while lifestyle factors that can cause type 2 diabetes include; lack of regular exercise and obesity. Type 2 diabetes is initiated when the body continues to resist insulin that is produced by the pancreas and in this condition sugar starts to build up in the blood.

Gestational diabetes

Gestational diabetes is caused by changes in hormone secretion during pregnancy. When you are pregnant the placenta produces hormones that makes your body to resist insulin and the pancreas responds by producing more insulin to control this condition. In a situation whereby the pancreas cannot produce enough insulin to reduce the resistance then more glucose are spilt into the blood and this will lead to gestational diabetes.

Diabetes Risk Factors

The following are factors that can contribute to diabetes:

Type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is caused by immune response that attacks and destroys the pancreas cells which produce insulin. You are at higher risk of developing type 1 diabetes if you have a family medical history with the health condition, you are a child or teenager, or you are previously exposed to a viral illness.

Type 2 diabetes

Your risk for developing type 2 diabetics is increased if you ;

  • Are 45 years and above
  • Are obesed or overweight
  • Are not physically active
  • Have the prediabetes
  • Have high blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Have had gestational diabetes in the past
  • Have family medical history linked to the disease
  • Are blood related to African American, American Indian, Alaska native and Latino American.

Gestation diabetes

You are at greater risk for developing diabetes during pregnancy (Gestational diabetes) if you:

  • Are being overweight
  • Have family history with type 2 diabetes
  • Are above 25 years
  • Have gestational diabetes during the previous pregnancy
  • Have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
  • Have given birth to a baby that weighed more than 9 pounds.


The basic cause of prediabetics are unclear and not fully understood by researchers. However, other factors that can contribute to developing prediabetics include:

  • Obesity
  • Physical inactivity
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Age factors
  • Family history linked to the disease
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome(POS)

Symptoms of Diabetes

Diabetes is initiated as a result of high blood sugar. The following are the general symptoms of diabetes:

  • Increase hunger and thirst
  • Polyuria (frequent urination)
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Fatigue and restlessness
  • Blurred vision
  • Sores that heal slowly
  • Erectile dyfunction in men
  • Skin infection and urinary tract infection in women.

Majority of women with gestational diabetes do not exhibit any symptoms and if they exhibit at all, it is usually detected through the routine blood test that are conducted during the second and third trimester of pregnancy. The symptoms they may likely show include; increased thirst and polyuria (frequent urination).

Diabetic Complications

Diabetes complications arise from untreated diabetes. The longer you live with diabetics the higher your blood sugar is elevated and the complications develop gradually. The possible complications of diabetes include:

  • Neuropathy
  • Heart disorder and stroke
  • Eye defects
  • Depression
  • Skin conditions such as fungal and bacterial infections
  • Foot damage such as sores that don’t heal or those that heal slowly
  • Dementia

Diagnosis of Diabetes

If you experience any of these symptoms of diabetes or you are at risk of diabetes, it is advisable to see your doctor for clinical diagnosis of the disease. The clinical diagnosis of diabetes is usually carried out by collecting your blood sample and subjecting it to the following test:

  • Glacated Hemoglobin Test : This test does not require fasting and it estimates the percentage of blood sugar attached to hemoglobin. It is used to reveal your average blood sugar level for the past 2 to 3 months.
  • Fasting Plasma Glucose Test (FPG): This test is used to reveal or measure the amount of glucose in your blood after you have fasted for 8 hours. This test detect diabetes and prediabetes.
  • Oral Glucose Tolerance test (OGT): This test measures your blood sugar after you have fasted for 8 hours and also 2 after drinking a sugary liquid. This test also detects diabetes and prediabetics.

When you are pregnant and at higher risk of developing diabetes due to some factors such as obesity, family history of the disease and your medical history of diabetes . It is crucial to see your doctor so as to screen for the presence of diabetes. The following test will be carried out on you to detect gestational diabetes:

  • Glucose challenge test: This test measures your blood sugar 1 hour after drinking a syrupy glucose solution.
  • Glucose tolerance test: This test measures your blood sugar after fasting overnight and you will be asked to drink a sugary liquid that has higher concentration of glucose, then the test is carried out every hour for a period of 3 hours.

Treatment of diabetes

Early diagnosis and treatment of diabetes is very important to prevent complications that might arise from the late detection and untreated diabetes. Eating healthy food, maintaining healthy weight and involving in physical activities are the effective ways of treating and managing diabetes. Other important ways of treating the disease include:

  • Proper monitoring of blood sugar
  • Use of insulin injection
  • Use of high-quality medications as prescribed by your doctor
  • Transplantation

How to Prevent Diabetes

The basic principle for managing diabetes include healthy diet development, maintaining healthy weight and through regular exercises.

  • Healthy diet development: The food and drinks you take contribute a lot to the amount of sugar in your blood. Therefore focus more on eating food that is high in protein and fibre and those that are low in fat and carbohydrate. Diabetes diets such as fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains should be added to your meals while sugary foods should be avoided because they can build up more sugar in your blood.
  • Regular exercises: Maintaining a good regular body exercise is very important to burn fat and reduce obesity. It also increase your sensitivity to insulin i.e your body will utilise more insulin very well. A study revealed that physical activity such as walking is effective in preventing type 2 diabetes and lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality. Therefore always aim at 150 minutes or more aerobic exercises in most days of the week such as running, cycling, swimming and brisk walking.
  • Maintaining healthy weight: maintenance of a healthy weight can be done by eating foods that are healthy and engaging in physical activities. Studies have revealed that people who are obesed have higher risk of diabetes. This is because the amount of nonesterified fatty acids, glycerols, hormones, cytokines and other substance that contribute to insulin resistance is regularly increased in obesed people.

About Adebayo Taiwo

Adebayo Taiwo hails from Africa. He's a Microbiologist , Health Safety and Environment Specialist and a Health Advisor who is concerned about the well-being and healthy lifestyle of people around the globe. The health of my people is my pride.

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