HomeDiabetesDiabetes: Its types, causes and symptoms 

Diabetes: Its types, causes and symptoms 

Diabetes: Its types, causes and symptoms 

High blood glucose (sugar) levels characterize diabetes, a chronic medical condition. It occurs when the body either cannot produce enough insulin or cannot effectively use the insulin it produces. The pancreas produces insulin, a hormone that aids cells in absorbing glucose from the bloodstream for energy. Without effective insulin function, glucose builds up in the blood, leading to various health problems.

 Type 1 diabetes


  • Insulin is a hormone essential for allowing glucose to enter cells and produce energy.


  • The exact cause is unknown, but it is believed to be genetic and environmental.
  • Triggers may include viral infections or other environmental factors.


  • There is a rapid onset of symptoms such as frequent urination, increased thirst, unexplained weight loss, extreme hunger, fatigue, and blurred vision.


  • The patient receives lifelong insulin therapy via injections or an insulin pump.
  • Blood sugar is monitored.
  • Healthy eating and regular physical activity.

2. Type 2 diabetes


  • The most common form of diabetes accounts for about 90–95% of all cases.
  • Insulin resistance, in which the body’s cells cannot produce enough insulin or use it effectively, characterizes the condition.


  • Often, it develops due to a combination of genetic factors and lifestyle factors such as obesity, poor diet, and physical inactivity.
  • There is a strong correlation with age, family history, and certain ethnicities (e.g., African American, Hispanic, Native American, and Asian American populations).


  • Often, it develops gradually and may be asymptomatic in its early stages.
  • Symptoms include frequent urination, increased thirst, hunger, fatigue, blurred vision, slow-healing sores, and frequent infections.


  • A balanced diet, regular physical activity, and weight loss are examples of lifestyle changes.
  • Oral medications or non-insulin injectables.
  • Regular monitoring of glucose levels.

3. Gestational diabetes


  • Women who did not have diabetes before becoming pregnant receive a diabetes diagnosis during pregnancy.
  • Typically, it occurs in the second or third trimester.


  • Risk factors include obesity, older maternal age, a family history of diabetes, and certain ethnic backgrounds.


  • The condition is often asymptomatic and is diagnosed through routine screening during pregnancy.
  • Symptoms, if present, can include increased thirst, frequent urination, fatigue, and nausea.


  • Monitoring glucose levels.
  • Dietary changes and regular physical activity.
  • If blood sugar levels persist despite lifestyle changes, we recommend insulin therapy.
  • Careful monitoring of the pregnancy is necessary to manage potential complications.


  • Gestational diabetes typically resolves after childbirth, but it increases the mother’s risk of developing Type 2 diabetes later in life.

4. Prediabetes


  • Glucose levels are higher than normal in this condition, but not high enough to qualify as type 2 diabetes.
  • This indicates a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular diseases.


  • Lifestyle factors like poor diet, physical inactivity, and obesity influence it similarly to type 2 diabetes.
  • Genetic predisposition also plays a role.


  • Blood tests like fasting glucose or HbA1c, often asymptomatic, can detect it.


  • Lifestyle changes to lower glucose levels and prevent the progression to type 2 diabetes.
  • Regular physical activity, a healthy diet, weight loss, and sometimes medications like metformin are recommended.

Other Types

  1. Monogenic Diabetes:
  • A single gene mutation is the condition’s cause and frequently manifests in infancy or young adulthood.
  • This category includes conditions such as MODY (Maturity-Onset Diabetes of the Young) and neonatal DM.
  1. Secondary Diabetes:
  • Results from other medical conditions or treatments, such as pancreatic diseases, hormonal disorders, or the use of certain medications like steroids, can also have an impact.

Complications of Diabetes:

These complications arise from prolonged high blood sugar levels, which can damage various organs and systems in the body. Here is an overview of the major complications associated with DM:

1. Cardiovascular complications

Heart Disease and Stroke:

  • People with diabetes are at higher risk of heart disease, including coronary artery disease (which can lead to heart attacks) and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
  • Damage to blood vessels and the increased risk of blood clots also increase the risk of stroke.

2. Neuropathy (Nerve Damage)

Peripheral Neuropathy:

  • Damage to the nerves in the extremities, particularly the legs and feet, leads to pain, tingling, and loss of sensation.
  • This can result in injuries and infections going unnoticed, potentially leading to severe complications like ulcers and amputations.

Autonomic Neuropathy:

  • It affects the nerves that control involuntary functions such as heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, and bladder control.
  • This can lead to issues like gastroparesis (delayed stomach emptying), urinary problems, and sexual dysfunction.

3. Nephropathy (kidney damage)

Diabetic Nephropathy:

  • High glucose levels can damage the kidneys’ filtering system, leading to kidney disease or kidney failure.
  • DM is a leading cause of chronic kidney disease and end-stage renal disease, often necessitating dialysis or a kidney transplant.

4. Retinopathy (Eye Damage)

Diabetic Retinopathy:

  • If left untreated, damage to the blood vessels in the retina can cause vision problems, even blindness.
  • Early stages may be asymptomatic, but over time it can lead to blurred vision, floaters, and loss of vision.

Other eye conditions:

  • There is an increased risk of cataracts (clouding of the eye lens) and glaucoma (increased eye pressure).

5. Foot Complications

Diabetic Foot:

  • Poor blood circulation and nerve damage increase the risk of foot ulcers, infections, and, in severe cases, amputation.
  • Proper foot care and regular check-ups are crucial to preventing these complications.

6. Gastroparesis

Delayed gastric emptying:

  • This is a condition where the stomach takes too long to empty its contents, leading to nausea, vomiting, bloating, and fluctuations in blood sugar levels.

7. Problems with oral health

Gum Disease:

  • Diabetes increases the risk of gum infections (gingivitis and periodontitis), which can affect the tissues and bones supporting the teeth.

8. Hearing impairment

Hearing Loss:

  • People with diabetes have a higher incidence of hearing problems, possibly due to damage to the nerves and blood vessels in the ear.

9. Mental health concerns

Depression and anxiety:

  • Chronic illness and the burden of managing DM can lead to mental health challenges, including depression and anxiety.

10. Alzheimer’s Disease

Cognitive Decline:

  • Some studies suggest that type 2 diabetes increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

Preventing and managing complications

  • Blood Sugar Control: Keeping blood glucose levels within the target range through diet, exercise, and medications.
  • Regular Monitoring: Frequent glucose testing and regular check-ups with healthcare providers.
  • Healthy Lifestyle: Maintaining a balanced diet, regular physical activity, avoiding smoking, and moderating alcohol intake.
  • Routine screenings include regular eye exams, kidney function tests, and foot examinations to detect and address complications early.
  • It’s crucial to comprehend diabetes and its complications and to actively seek assistance from healthcare professionals, support groups, and diabetes education programs.

Frequently Asked Questions 

1. What is diabetes?

Answer: Diabetes is a chronic condition where the body either doesn’t produce enough insulin or doesn’t use insulin effectively, leading to high glucose levels. The main types are Type 1, Type 2, and gestational DM.

2. What are the symptoms of diabetes?

Answer: Common symptoms include frequent urination, increased thirst, extreme hunger, unexplained weight loss, fatigue, blurred vision, slow-healing sores, and frequent infections.

3. How is diabetes diagnosed?

Answer: Blood tests, such as:

  • Fasting Plasma Glucose Test (FPG): Measures blood sugar after an overnight fast.
  • Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT): Measures blood sugar before and after consuming a glucose drink.
  • A1C Test: Measures average glucose levels over the past 2–3 months.
  • Random Plasma Glucose Test: Measures glucose at any time, without fasting.

4. What are the risk factors for developing diabetes?

Answer: Risk factors include family history of diabetes, obesity, physical inactivity, poor diet, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, older age, and certain ethnic backgrounds (e.g., African American, Hispanic, Native American, Asian American).

5. Can diabetes be prevented?

Answer: Lifestyle changes such as maintaining a healthy weight, eating a balanced diet, engaging in regular physical activity, and avoiding smoking can often prevent or delay Type 2 diabetes. Type 1 DM cannot be prevented.

6. How is diabetes managed?

Answer: Management includes:

  • To keep blood sugar levels within target ranges, regular testing is required.
  • The medication regimen includes insulin for type 1 diabetes, oral medications, and occasionally insulin for type 2 diabetes.
  • Lifestyle changes include healthy eating, regular exercise, weight management, and avoiding tobacco.
  • Regular check-ups are crucial for monitoring and managing complications.

7. What complications can arise from diabetes?

Answer: Complications include heart disease, stroke, neuropathy (nerve damage), nephropathy (kidney damage), retinopathy (eye damage), foot problems, skin conditions, hearing impairment, and mental health issues like depression.

8. How often should I check my blood sugar levels?

Answer: The frequency of blood sugar monitoring depends on the type of DM, treatment plan, and individual needs. People with Type 1 DM or those using insulin may need to check multiple times a day. Those with type 2 diabetes may check less frequently, depending on their control and management plan.

9. What should I do if my blood sugar is too high or too low?


  • High Blood Sugar (Hyperglycemia): Follow your doctor’s instructions, which may include adjusting medication, exercising, and drinking water. Contact your healthcare provider if levels remain high.
  • Low Blood Sugar (Hypoglycemia): Consume fast-acting carbohydrates like glucose tablets, juice, or candy. Recheck blood sugar after 15 minutes, and repeat if necessary. If levels do not improve, seek medical assistance.

10. Can I still eat sweets and carbohydrates?

Answer: Yes, but in moderation and as part of a balanced diet. It’s important to monitor carbohydrate intake and understand how different foods affect blood sugar levels. Working with a dietitian can help manage a healthy eating plan.

11. Is diabetes hereditary?

Answer: Genetics play a role in both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, but lifestyle and environmental factors are also significant, especially for Type 2 DM. Having a family member with diabetes increases your risk, but it does not guarantee that you will develop the condition.

12. What is gestational diabetes?

Answer: Gestational diabetes is a type of DM that develops during pregnancy and usually resolves after childbirth. It increases the risk of developing Type 2 DM later in life for both the mother and child.

13. What is prediabetes?

Answer: In prediabetes, blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to qualify as type 2 diabetes. It indicates an increased risk of developing Type 2 DM and cardiovascular disease.

14. Can stress affect my blood sugar levels?

Answer: Yes, stress can cause blood sugar levels to rise due to the release of stress hormones like cortisol. Managing stress through techniques such as exercise, relaxation, and counseling can help maintain better blood sugar control.






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