There are three main types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes, usually diagnosed in children and adolescents, occurs when the pancreas is unable to produce insulin. Insulin is a hormone that controls the amount of glucose in the blood. Approximately 10 per cent of people with diabetes have type 1 diabetes.
The remaining 90 per cent have type 2 diabetes, which occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or when the body does not effectively use the insulin that is produced. Type 2 diabetes usually develops in adulthood, although increasing numbers of children in high-risk populations are being diagnosed.
A third type of diabetes, gestational diabetes, is a temporary condition that occurs during pregnancy. It affects approximately 2 to 4 per cent of all pregnancies (in the non-Aboriginal population) and involves an increased risk of developing diabetes for both mother and child.
Prediabetes refers to a condition where a person’s blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes.
Is diabetes serious?
If left untreated or improperly managed, diabetes can result in a variety of complications, including:
Problems with erection (impotence)
The first step in preventing or delaying the onset of these complications is recognizing the risk factors, as well as signs and symptoms of diabetes.
What are the risk factors for diabetes?
If you are aged 40 or older, you are at risk for type 2 diabetes and should be tested at least every three years. If any of the following risks factors apply, you should be tested earlier and/or more often.
A member of a high-risk group (Aboriginal, Hispanic, Asian, South Asian or African descent)
Overweight (especially if you carry most of your weight around your middle)
A parent, brother or sister with diabetes
Health complications that are associated with diabetes
Given birth to a baby that weighed more than 4 kg (9 lb)
Had gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy)
Impaired glucose tolerance or impaired fasting glucose
High blood pressure
High cholesterol or other fats in the blood
Been diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome, acanthosis nigricans (darkened patches of skin), or schizophrenia
What are the symptoms?
Signs and symptoms of diabetes include the following:
Weight change (gain or loss)
Extreme fatigue or lack of energy
Frequent or recurring infections
Cuts and bruises that are slow to heal
Tingling or numbness in the hands or feet
Trouble getting or maintaining an erection
It is important to recognize, however, that many people who have type 2 diabetes may display no symptoms.
Can you prevent diabetes?
Scientists believe that lifestyle changes can help prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes. A healthy meal plan, weight control and physical activity are important prevention steps.