Glucose, also known as blood sugar, is vital to your health – it is the main source of fuel for your body. The hormone insulin is produced by your pancreas to enable the cells in your body to convert glucose in your blood into energy.
Diabetes is a serious chronic metabolic disorder in which there is too much glucose in your blood because the body doesn’t produce enough insulin or can’t use insulin properly.
When you have diabetes, the sugar builds up in your blood instead of moving into the cells, which can lead to serious health problems. If not managed well, it can deteriorate steadily to cause devastating complications such as blindness, limb amputation, nerve damage, kidney failure, heart disease and stroke. There are three main types of diabetes: type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes.
Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that occurs when the body doesn’t produce any insulin.
Type 2 Diabetes (Diabetes mellitus)
In type 2 diabetes, the body either doesn’t produce enough insulin or the cells can’t use the insulin effectively.
- Type 2 diabetes (also known as diabetes mellitus) – is the most commonly diagnosed type of diabetes. 90–95 per cent of diabetics are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
- In Singapore, about 10 per cent of the population aged 18 to 69 has type 2 diabetes, making it the fifth most common medical condition and one of the top six killer diseases in the country.
- Type 2 diabetes is usually diagnosed in those over 40, and is sometimes referred to as adult-onset diabetes. It is often associated with obesity, and has a strong genetic link.
- Symptoms may develop slowly or not at all, and many people remain unaware of their condition before developing complications.
Gestational diabetes is diabetes that occurs for the first time when a woman is pregnant. Two to seven per cent of pregnant women develop diabetes during pregnancy because the hormones make it tougher for their bodies to use insulin effectively. As a result, their blood sugar level may rise, resulting in gestational diabetes. If left untreated, the baby may grow too big, making it difficult to deliver, and may develop hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar), while the mother bears an increased risk of urinary tract infections and preeclampsia.
Although blood sugar levels for most women tend to normalise once the baby is born, there is a risk of developing the condition again during future pregnancies and a 40–60 per cent chance of developing type 2 diabetes later in life. Maintaining a reasonable body weight and being physically active may help prevent these complications. If you develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy, your doctor will monitor your condition and advise accordingly. In the event that the condition cannot be controlled with diet and exercise, insulin shots may be needed.
Article contributed by the Department of Endocrinology at:
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