Fresh thinking on Diabetes

Diabetes is one of the oldest known human diseases; but due to our current lifestyles, food portions and increased sugar in our diet, diabetes will become the biggest killer over the next few years. Its full name (diabetes mellitus) comes from the Greek words for syphon and sugar, and describes the most obvious symptom of uncontrolled diabetes: the passing of large amounts of urine that is sweet because it contains sugar (glucose).

 

What are the main types of diabetes?

 

Type 1 Diabetes is otherwise known as insulin-dependent diabetes. It develops as a result of the pancreas producing little or no insulin. It is commonly seen in patients under the age of 40 and always requires insulin.

 

Type 2 Diabetes is otherwise known as non-insulin dependent diabetes. Patients with Type 2 are able to make insulin but the amounts produced are insufficient. They are often less sensitive to insulin (known as insulin resistance) and may be treated with diet and exercise initially, but often require tablets and insulin later in their lives.

 

What are the symptoms of diabetes?

 

The main symptoms of untreated diabetes are increased thirst, passing water frequently — especially at night — extreme tiredness, weight loss despite a good appetite, genital itching or frequent episodes of thrush, and blurred vision. Many patients with undiagnosed diabetes have no symptoms but with routine health checks urine can be tested for glucose estimation. Type 2 diabetes typically develops slowly and the symptoms of tiredness and weight loss are often dismissed as ‘growing up’ or overwork. Type 1 diabetes in contrast develops rapidly with weight loss and marked symptoms of thirst.

 

The onset of Type 1 is sudden, and Type 2 is slow. Either way, it’s easy for parents to miss these classic symptoms.

 

Bedwetting, accidents, or saturated diapers. As your child’s body tries to flush out excess blood sugar, there’s an increase in the volume of urine.

 

Unquenchable thirst. This loss of excreted fluid makes the body crave replenishment.

 

Dehydration. Dry mouth, lack of tears, and sunken eyes are also signs your child’s body doesn’t have enough fluid.

 

Diabetes Risk Factors

 

There are a number of risk factors: some diabetic risks come from our genetics, many are preventable.

 

Obesity. The major Type 2 diabetes risk, with millions of people around the world facing obesity and the numbers continue to increase both among adults and children.

 

Lack of exercise and a sedentary way of life. Living a sedentary lifestyle without sufficient exercise is seriously damaging to the health. Being inactive often leads to being overweight, which can lead to pre-diabetes and Type 2 diabetes.

 

Eating a Western diet. Eating unhealthily is a major cause of Type 2 diabetes, as over 90% of Type 2 diabetics are overweight. The Western diet, with a reliance on processed foods, poor quality fats and little fibre content, is thought to be a major contributor to diabetes.

 

Could environment be a factor in childhood diabetes?

 

Rates of Type 1 diabetes have been steadily climbing worldwide. While early adolescence is still the most common age of onset, some children are being diagnosed even before their first birthday. Although kids who develop Type 1 are thought to have some sort of genetic predisposition to a malfunctioning immune system, most don’t have a close relative with the condition. The reason for the rise is a mystery, but researchers are looking into three environmental factors.

 

Extreme Cleanliness. Thanks to improved hygiene, children don’t encounter as many germs today, which may interfere with normal development of the immune system.

 

Weight Gain. In kids whose insulin-producing cells have already started malfunctioning, excess weight may accelerate the development of full-blown diabetes.
Early Solids. Feeding cereal to a baby under three months of age who is at higher risk for Type 1 may be linked to triggering the immune system to mistakenly attack his pancreas.

 

Dr. Brian McNaull is the medical director of Family Medical Practice Hanoi. For information or assistance call (04) 3843 0748 (Hanoi), (08) 3822 7848 (Ho Chi Minh City) or (0511) 3582 699 (Danang). Alternatively, click on vietnammedicalpractice.com

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