Diabetes mellitus is a metabolic disorder in which elevated blood glucose levels are found as a result of a lack of insulin or failure of insulin to act. Insulin is a hormone that acts as the “key” that opens the cells so that glucose can access them and be used as a source of energy. Therefore, if it does not work or there is no insulin, glucose accumulates in the blood and over time can damage various organs.
Types of diabetes mellitus according to their origin
Classically, two types of diabetes mellitus are differentiated.
- Type 1 diabetes mellitus, which is usually diagnosed in childhood or adolescence. It is the consequence of an inflammation (autoimmune) of the pancreas that loses the capacity to produce insulin adequately.
- Type 2 diabetes mellitus, which is more common, is usually diagnosed after the age of 40 years, usually associated with obesity, sedentary lifestyle, hypercholesterolemia, hypertension, etc. In this case there is a resistance to insulin caused by a more complex metabolic disorder in which overweight and sedentary lifestyle play a role, in addition to a genetic predisposition.
It should be noted that we are seeing more and more atypical clinical situations in the Endocrinology consultation, such as diagnosing adults between 30 and 50 years of age with type 1 diabetes. Also, as sedentary lifestyles and obesity are more frequent at younger ages, we also find more and more type 2 diabetes in childhood and adolescence.
Symptoms of diabetes according to age
A young or even older patient with symptoms of unexplained weight loss, fatigue, increased thirst and the need to urinate large amounts of urine should be alerted to the possibility of diabetes mellitus. Sometimes this situation can become serious and require hospital admission.
On the other hand, older patients, overweight or obese, sedentary, sometimes with a history of diabetes in close relatives and often with other associated problems such as hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, etc., may also have diabetes and show no symptoms. These patients are usually diagnosed by routine tests. In these cases, if the patients do manifest symptoms such as those indicated above, it could be that they have already had the disease for some time.
What is interesting to note is that even patients with diabetes at an earlier stage, without symptoms, may already have complications in various organs such as the retina, kidney, heart or arteries, or peripheral nerves.
Diabetes can be prevented
Undoubtedly, genetic or family factors cannot be modified, but environmental factors clearly can. This is along the lines of controlling overweight or obesity, promoting adequate physical activity and controlling as well as possible other frequent associated problems, such as hypercholesterolemia and hypertension.
Prognosis of the patient with diabetes mellitus
Diabetes is a type of disease in which the patient’s attitude has a great deal to say in its evolution.
There are diseases in which the predisposition to suffer from it, the evolution and the prognosis are not in the patient’s hands. In the case of diabetes, there is a very important part in the evolution of the disease, as in the predisposition to suffer it in the case of type 2 diabetes, which is closely related to the patient’s lifestyle habits and the skills acquired in the field of “diabetes education” to improve their prognosis.
Recommendations on healthy lifestyle habits and diabetes education are fundamental pillars in the management of this disease.