Today, November 14, 2019 is world diabetes day. The theme for this year is “Family and Diabetes.”
IDF is raising awareness of the impact that diabetes has on the family and support network of those affected, and promoting the role of the family in the management, care, prevention and education of diabetes.
Families are urged to learn more about the warning signs of diabetes and find out their risk of type 2 diabetes. Research conducted by IDF in 2018 discovered that parents would struggle to spot this serious life-long condition in their own children. Despite the majority of people surveyed having a family member with diabetes, an alarming four-in-five parents would have trouble recognising the warning signs. One-in-three wouldn’t spot them at all.
The findings underline the need for education and awareness to help people spot the diabetes warning signs early.
A lack of knowledge about diabetes means that spotting the warning signs is not just a problem for parents, but is an issue impacting a cross-section of society. This is a major concern, due to the signs being milder in type 2 diabetes, the most prevalent form of the condition, responsible for around 90% of all diabetes. One in two people currently living with diabetes are undiagnosed. The vast majority of these have type 2 diabetes.
Left untreated or unmanaged, diabetes can lead to life-changing complications. These include blindness, amputation, kidney failure, heart attack and stroke. Diabetes was responsible for four million deaths in 2017.
What are the symptoms of diabetes?
Symptoms of diabetes include
- increased thirst and urination
- increased hunger
- blurred vision
- numbness or tingling in the feet or hands
- sores that do not heal
- unexplained weight loss
Symptoms of type 1 diabetes can start quickly, in a matter of weeks. Symptoms of type 2 diabetes often develop slowly—over the course of several years—and can be so mild that you might not even notice them. Many people with type 2 diabetes have no symptoms. Some people do not find out they have the disease until they have diabetes-related health problems, such as blurred vision or heart trouble.
What causes type 1 diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes occurs when your immune system, the body’s system for fighting infection, attacks and destroys the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas. Scientists think type 1 diabetes is caused by genes and environmental factors, such as viruses, that might trigger the disease. Studies such as TrialNet External link are working to pinpoint causes of type 1 diabetes and possible ways to prevent or slow the disease.
What causes type 2 diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes—the most common form of diabetes—is caused by several factors, including lifestyle factors and genes.
Overweight, obesity, and physical inactivity
You are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes if you are not physically active and are overweight or obese. Extra weight sometimes causes insulin resistance and is common in people with type 2 diabetes. The location of body fat also makes a difference. Extra belly fat is linked to insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and heart and blood vessel disease. To see if your weight puts you at risk for type 2 diabetes, check out these Body Mass Index (BMI) charts.
Type 2 diabetes usually begins with insulin resistance, a condition in which muscle, liver, and fat cells do not use insulin well. As a result, your body needs more insulin to help glucose enter cells. At first, the pancreas makes more insulin to keep up with the added demand. Over time, the pancreas can’t make enough insulin, and blood glucose levels rise.
Genes and family history
As in type 1 diabetes, certain genes may make you more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. The disease tends to run in families and occurs more often in these racial/ethnic groups:
- African Americans
- Alaska Natives
- American Indians
- Asian Americans
- Native Hawaiians
- Pacific Islanders
Genes also can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes by increasing a person’s tendency to become overweight or obese.
What causes gestational diabetes?
Scientists believe gestational diabetes, a type of diabetes that develops during pregnancy, is caused by the hormonal changes of pregnancy along with genetic and lifestyle factors.
Hormones produced by the placenta NIH external link contribute to insulin resistance, which occurs in all women during late pregnancy. Most pregnant women can produce enough insulin to overcome insulin resistance, but some cannot. Gestational diabetes occurs when the pancreas can’t make enough insulin.
As with type 2 diabetes, extra weight is linked to gestational diabetes. Women who are overweight or obese may already have insulin resistance when they become pregnant. Gaining too much weight during pregnancy may also be a factor.
Genes and family history
Having a family history of diabetes makes it more likely that a woman will develop gestational diabetes, which suggests that genes play a role. Genes may also explain why the disorder occurs more often in African Americans, American Indians, Asians, and Hispanics/Latinas.
What else can cause diabetes?
Genetic mutations NIH external link, other diseases, damage to the pancreas, and certain medicines may also cause diabetes.
- Monogenic diabetes is caused by mutations, or changes, in a single gene. These changes are usually passed through families, but sometimes the gene mutation happens on its own. Most of these gene mutations cause diabetes by making the pancreas less able to make insulin. The most common types of monogenic diabetes are neonatal diabetes and maturity-onset diabetes of the young (MODY). Neonatal diabetes occurs in the first 6 months of life. Doctors usually diagnose MODY during adolescence or early adulthood, but sometimes the disease is not diagnosed until later in life.
- Cystic fibrosisNIH external link produces thick mucus that causes scarring in the pancreas. This scarring can prevent the pancreas from making enough insulin.
- Hemochromatosiscauses the body to store too much iron. If the disease is not treated, iron can build up in and damage the pancreas and other organs.
Some hormonal diseases cause the body to produce too much of certain hormones, which sometimes cause insulin resistance and diabetes.
- Cushing’s syndromeoccurs when the body produces too much cortisol—often called the “stress hormone.”
- Acromegalyoccurs when the body produces too much growth hormone.
- Hyperthyroidismoccurs when the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone.
Damage to or removal of the pancreas
Pancreatitis, pancreatic cancer, and trauma can all harm the beta cells or make them less able to produce insulin, resulting in diabetes. If the damaged pancreas is removed, diabetes will occur due to the loss of the beta cells.
Sometimes certain medicines can harm beta cells or disrupt the way insulin works. These include
- niacin, a type of vitamin B3
- certain types of diuretics, also called water pills
- anti-seizure drugs
- psychiatric drugs
- drugs to treat human immunodeficiency virus (HIVNIH external link)
- pentamidine, a drug used to treat a type of pneumoniaExternal link
- glucocorticoids—medicines used to treat inflammatory illnesses such as rheumatoid arthritisNIH external link, asthma NIH external link, lupus NIH external link, and ulcerative colitis
- anti-rejection medicines, used to help stop the body from rejecting a transplanted organ
Statins, which are medicines to reduce LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels, can slightly increase the chance that you’ll develop diabetes. However, statins help protect you from heart disease and stroke. For this reason, the strong benefits of taking statins outweigh the small chance that you could develop diabetes.
If you take any of these medicines and are concerned about their side effects, talk with your doctor.
Diabetes prevention: 5 tips for taking control
Changing your lifestyle could be a big step toward diabetes prevention — and it’s never too late to start. Consider these tips.
When it comes to type 2 diabetes — the most common type of diabetes — prevention is very important. It’s especially important to make diabetes prevention a priority if you’re at increased risk of diabetes, such as if you’re overweight or you have a family history of the disease or you have been diagnosed with prediabetes (also known as impaired fasting glucose).
Diabetes prevention is as basic as eating more healthfully, becoming more physically active and losing a few extra pounds. It’s never too late to start. Making a few simple changes in your lifestyle now may help you avoid the serious health complications of diabetes in the future, such as nerve, kidney and heart damage. Consider these diabetes prevention tips from the American Diabetes Association.
- Get more physical activity
There are many benefits to regular physical activity. Exercise can help you:
- Lose weight
- Lower your blood sugar
- Boost your sensitivity to insulin — which helps keep your blood sugar within a normal range
Research shows that aerobic exercise and resistance training can help control diabetes. The greatest benefit comes from a fitness program that includes both.
- Get plenty of fiber
Fiber may help you:
- Reduce your risk of diabetes by improving your blood sugar control
- Lower your risk of heart disease
- Promote weight loss by helping you feel full
Foods high in fiber include fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains and nuts.
- Go for whole grains
It’s not clear why, but whole grains may reduce your risk of diabetes and help maintain blood sugar levels. Try to make at least half your grains whole grains.
Many foods made from whole grains come ready to eat, including various breads, pasta products and cereals. Look for the word “whole” on the package and among the first few items in the ingredient list.
- Lose extra weight
If you’re overweight, diabetes prevention may hinge on weight loss. Every pound you lose can improve your health, and you may be surprised by how much. Participants in one large study who lost a modest amount of weight — around 7 percent of initial body weight — and exercised regularly reduced the risk of developing diabetes by almost 60 percent.
- Skip fad diets and just make healthier choices
Low-carb diets, the glycemic index diet or other fad diets may help you lose weight at first. But their effectiveness at preventing diabetes and their long-term effects aren’t known. And by excluding or strictly limiting a particular food group, you may be giving up essential nutrients and often craving such foods. Instead, make variety and portion control part of your healthy-eating plan.
When to see your doctor
The American Diabetes Association recommends blood glucose screening if:
- You’re age 45 or older
- You’re an overweight adult of any age, with one or more additional risk factors for diabetes, such as a family history of diabetes, a personal history of prediabetes or an inactive lifestyle
After age 45, your doctor will likely recommend screening every three years.
Share your concerns about diabetes prevention with your doctor. He or she will appreciate your efforts to prevent diabetes and may offer additional suggestions based on your medical history or other factors.