A disease causing abnormally high concentrations of glucose concentrations within the blood stream is known as Diabetes mellitus. A hormone called insulin, produced by specialized cells within the pancreas, controls glucose levels within the blood. Insulin is produced in response to increasing levels of glucose within the bloodstream. The insulin removes the glucose from the bloodstream into the body's cells to be used as fuel. If insulin is not present the glucose levels rise and the cells become starved of fuel and diabetes occurs.
Diabetes can be identified by weight loss, a raging thirst and frequent urination.
Diabetes is classified into two types: Insulin dependant diabetes mellitus (IDDM) and Non insulin dependant diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) also known as type1 and type 2 respectively. Type1 IDDM diabetes occurs as a result of the body's immune system destroying the insulin producing cells in the pancreas and typically occurs during childhood. As a result the insulin levels are permanently absent or severely deficient and regular insulin injections are needed to control blood sugar levels. Type 2 NIDDM diabetes, occurs typically in obese or mature individuals. The insulin producing cells remain active, but are not producing enough insulin. This type of diabetes can be controlled by a change in diet (low fat, high fibre and carbohydrates) and oral hypoglycemic agents.
Complications arising as a consequence of the disease include increased risks of infections, coronary disease, kidney failure and peripheral vascular disease. The chronic disease can cause skin lesions and ulcers particularly in the feet. The ulcers are prone to infection and gangrene, resulting in amputation of toes or even limbs. Diabetic retinopathy is an eye condition, which can occur in some sufferers of diabetes. The diabetes causes micro-aneurysms or small bleeds and hypertensive changes across the retina. Hemorrhages and detachment of the retina leading to blindness then follows. Although there are many complications associated with diabetes, most sufferers go onto live to old age. However, if left untreated the body can lapse into a coma, and death may follow.
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