November is Diabetes Month in North America

November is Diabetes Month in North America

Diabetes facts in a nutshell.

By Grace Nakate
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First published: November 8, 2006

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a currently incurable condition in which too much glucose (sugar) is present in the blood. Let's find out more about the different types and what to do if you suffer from this condition or are thought to.

A common problem

Diabetes arises because the body can't use glucose properly, either because of a lack of the hormone insulin or because the insulin available doesn't work effectively. Not only is excess sugar found in the blood but it may appear in the urine too.

The full name 'diabetes mellitus' derives from the Greek word 'diabetes' meaning siphon - to pass through, and 'mellitus,' the Latin for honeyed or sweet. It refers to a major symptom of diabetes - sugar in the urine - and is a far more acceptable name than the one it was known by in the 17th century - when it was called the 'pissing evil'.

Diabetes has been a recognised condition for more than 3,500 years. About 2,000 years ago, it's said that Arataeus of Cappadocia described diabetes as 'a melting down of the flesh and limbs into urine'. This reflects the weight loss and excess urinating that occurs in acute, undiagnosed diabetes.

At this point in time, I don't know what the official figures are in Uganda of persons suffering from this condition, but diabetes is common. I believe more people in UG may have diabetes without realising it. The myth that it affects those who are well-off is no longer holding true as those who are not well off just don't get to be diagnosed and chances are pretty high they fall under the net.

More than three-quarters of those with diabetes have what is called 'type 2 diabetes mellitus'. This used to be known as non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) or maturity-onset diabetes mellitus. The remainder have type 1 diabetes mellitus, which used to be known as insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus.

The symptoms of diabetes

The signs of diabetes range from increased thirst to blurred vision. If you suffer any of the symptoms listed below, you should be tested for the condition.

In type 1 diabetes the symptoms tend to develop more quickly, over a couple of weeks, and are more severe. In type 2 diabetes the symptoms develop slowly and are usually not so severe.

The common symptoms of both types of diabetes are:

  • increased thirst
  • passing water frequently, especially at night
  • tiredness and fatigue
  • loss of weight
  • genital itching or recurrent thrush

In type 1 diabetes less common symptoms are:

  • cramps
  • constipation
  • blurred vision
  • recurrent skin infections

In type 2 diabetes symptoms may go unnoticed for years, and only when complications of diabetes - such as foot ulceration or blurred vision occur - is the diabetes diagnosed. Remember that all the symptoms may not be present. Whenever any of these symptoms arise it's important to test for diabetes.

Next... Diagnosing diabetes.

The above information is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. Please ensure you check with your physician as the above may also be indicative of other underlying causes or sometimes due certain types of medication.

By Grace Nakate
more from author >>
First published: November 8, 2006
Grace Nakate has a background in general and community practice nursing coupled with administration within the National Health Service of over 10yrs in the UK. She is currently working at Imperial College in London within the clinical research area - that merges cardiovascular medical research with rheumatology.