Everything You Need to Know About Diabetes

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Sugar Level

What is Diabetes?

The official name for diabetes is ‘ diabetes mellitus ‘ and is also known as diabetes mellitus. This condition is related to high blood sugar. This means that there is too much glucose (sugar) in your blood. Your body makes glucose when you eat carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are found in sweet products, but also in bread, rice, pasta and potatoes, for example.

Diabetes is one of the most common diseases worldwide. In the Netherlands alone, 850,000 people have diabetes. 75,000 people are added every year.

What types of diabetes are there?

There are several types of diabetes, of which type 1 and type 2 diabetes are the most common. For example, there is also gestational diabetes. Then the blood sugar level during pregnancy is increased due to hormonal changes. Blood sugar levels are normal before and after pregnancy. Read more about this on the gestational diabetes page .

What are the symptoms of diabetes?

Symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is usually detected quickly. In type 1 diabetes you have one or more of the following complaints. It is then wise to visit your doctor.

  • You are often thirsty and have to urinate a lot.
  • You lose weight without knowing why.
  • You are extra hungry or not hungry at all.
  • You do not see clearly.
  • You feel bad and sick.
  • You are nauseous and/or have to vomit.
  • You are often tired and sleepy
  • Your doctor can assess whether you have type 1 diabetes.

Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes

The most common form of diabetes is type 2 diabetes . This type of diabetes is the most difficult to recognize. If you experience any of the following symptoms, it may indicate type 2 diabetes.

  • You are often thirsty and have to urinate a lot.
  • You are often tired.
  • You have problems with your eyes: redness, burning, blurred vision, double vision or poor vision.
  • You have wounds that heal badly.
  • You suffer from shortness of breath or pain in the legs when walking.
  • You suffer from infections that often recur, such as bladder infections.

What are the causes of diabetes?

The hormone insulin plays an important role in diabetes. Insulin is produced by your body itself. Insulin ensures that your body processes the glucose from your diet properly. But if you have diabetes, the glucose is not processed properly. This can cause too much glucose (sugar) to enter your blood. This process can occur in two ways, resulting in two types of diabetes: type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes.

Causes of Type 1 Diabetes

In type 1 diabetes, your body does not make enough insulin. This is because the immune system destroys the cells that make insulin. Little is known about the causes of type 1 diabetes. Possible causes are: diet, viruses and (partly) heredity. Type 1 diabetes is usually discovered at a young age.

Causes of Type 2 Diabetes

In type 2 diabetes, your body does make insulin, but your cells have become less sensitive to this hormone. As a result, they absorb less glucose and too much glucose remains in your blood. This makes your blood sugar too high. This can ultimately affect your health. Type 2 diabetes usually starts in adulthood (from the age of 40) and was formerly known as ‘ageing sugar’. But type 2 diabetes is also becoming more common in young people. In addition, some people are hereditary.

Type 2 diabetes can be caused by:

Heredity (genetic predisposition)
Does one of your parents have type 2 diabetes? Then you have a 20% more chance of getting this.

Overweight (obesity)
If you are overweight, your body is less sensitive to insulin. As a result, your body can keep your blood sugar levels worse and worse. This can cause type 2 diabetes. On top of that, too little exercise increases your risk of diabetes even more.

Too much smoking
If you smoke, your body cells respond less well to insulin. This causes your blood sugar to become too high. Smoking puts you at a much higher risk of type 2 diabetes. If you already have type 2 diabetes, smoking will worsen your symptoms.

Is diabetes hereditary?

In type 2 diabetes, heredity plays a major role. Are you of Surinamese, Hindustani, Moroccan or Turkish descent? Then you naturally have an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. If your parents have type 2 diabetes, you are 20% more likely to get it. You do not inherit the disease. You only inherit the predisposition, which means that you have a greater chance of developing type 2 diabetes than other people.

What are the consequences of diabetes?

High blood sugars can damage your blood vessels and nerves after a while. For example, your feet may suffer more quickly ( diabetic foot ) or your vision may deteriorate (diabetic retinopathy).

Nowadays, there are increasingly better treatments for the consequences of diabetes. Nevertheless, it is better to recognise diabetes as soon as possible and thus prevent complications.

Preventing Diabetes

A healthy lifestyle reduces (or delays) your risk of diabetes. A healthy lifestyle can reduce your risk of diabetes by up to half. This is especially true for type 2 diabetes. Learn more about preventing diabetes here.

Treating Diabetes

Diabetes is a chronic disease. With the right treatment, diabetes can be kept under control.

Type 1 diabetes is treated with insulin. There is currently no cure for type 1 diabetes, but a lot of research is being done on this.

Type 2 diabetes is treated with diets, tablets and sometimes insulin. Type 2 diabetes is sometimes reversible or your symptoms can be reduced by structural lifestyle improvement in the areas of nutrition, exercise, sleep and relaxation. It is important to always do this under the supervision of a healthcare professional.

What is a hypo and hyper?

If you eat too little (in proportion to the amount of insulin in your body), you can get a hypo . A hypo is a low blood sugar level.
If you eat too much, you can get a hyper. A hyper is a blood sugar level that is too high.

Are there medicines for diabetes?

Do you have type 2 diabetes and your diet is not helping enough? Then you can benefit from diabetes medicines. All diabetes medications affect the amount of glucose and insulin in your body. If necessary, different types of active substances can be combined. If that does not help enough, you will probably also need to start taking insulin.
Examples of medicines prescribed for type 2 diabetes are metformin, sulphonylurea derivatives (such as gliclazide, glimepiride and tolbutamide) and insulin.

Measuring blood sugar

Many people with type 1 diabetes and sometimes type 2 diabetes learn to self-monitor their blood sugar (glucose levels in their blood). If you can measure your blood sugar yourself , you are less dependent on health care providers. Because then you can decide for yourself whether you should eat more or less, and whether you should inject more or less insulin.


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