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What is Diabetes ?

30 May, 2014 ,

Key facts

  • 347 million people worldwide have diabetes*.
  • In 2004, an estimated 3.4 million people died from consequences of high fasting blood sugar.
  • More than 80% of diabetes deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries .
  • WHO projects that diabetes will be the 7th leading cause of death in 2030.
  • Healthy diet, regular physical activity, maintaining a normal body weight and avoiding tobacco use can prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs either when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces. Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar. Hyperglycaemia, or raised blood sugar, is a common effect of uncontrolled diabetes and over time leads to serious damage to many of the body’s systems, especially the nerves and blood vessels.

347 million people worldwide have diabetes. In 2004, an estimated 3.4 million people died from consequences of fasting high blood sugar. A similar number of deaths has been estimated for 2010. More than 80% of diabetes deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries.

Type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes (previously known as insulin-dependent, juvenile or childhood-onset) is characterized by deficient insulin production and requires daily administration of insulin. The cause of type 1 diabetes is not known and it is not preventable with current knowledge.

Symptoms include excessive excretion of urine (polyuria), thirst (polydipsia), constant hunger, weight loss, vision changes and fatigue. These symptoms may occur suddenly.

Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes (formerly called non-insulin-dependent or adult-onset) results from the body’s ineffective use of insulin. Type 2 diabetes comprises 90% of people with diabetes around the world (5), and is largely the result of excess body weight and physical inactivity.

kids diabetesSymptoms may be similar to those of Type 1 diabetes, but are often less marked. As a result, the disease may be diagnosed several years after onset, once complications have already arisen.

Until recently, this type of diabetes was seen only in adults but it is now also occurring in children.

Gestational diabetes

Gestational diabetes is hyperglycaemia with onset or first recognition during pregnancy.

Symptoms of gestational diabetes are similar to Type 2 diabetes. Gestational diabetes is most often diagnosed through prenatal screening, rather than reported symptoms.

Impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) and impaired fasting glycaemia (IFG)

Impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) and impaired fasting glycaemia (IFG) are intermediate conditions in the transition between normality and diabetes. People with IGT or IFG are at high risk of progressing to type 2 diabetes, although this is not inevitable.


* Definition of diabetes used for the estimates: fasting glucose >= 7.0 mmol/L or on medication.

By the World Health Organization (WHO)
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