Diabetes:Causes,leaving with the illness,prevention-Dr Joyce Akwe explains


What is diabetes?

Diabetes Mellitus also commonly known as diabetes is a disease in which your body is unable to utilize blood sugars and so blood sugars (blood glucose) remain high in the blood after meals.

What causes diabetes?

When we eat food, it is broken down to a simpler form and then absorbed through the stomach or intestinal wall into the blood stream.  Once in the blood stream this simpler form of food passes into the cells where they are used for different functions. Blood sugars from high sugar containing foods and carbohydrates (starch) are used to produce energy.


In order for the sugars to get into the cell, they need a key to open the door that lets them in.  This key is called insulin. Insulin is produced by an organ located inside the abdomen (belly) called the pancreas.

Diabetes is caused by an inability of the cells of the body to take in blood sugars from the blood stream because of inadequate insulin or insulin not working appropriately

When sugars enter the cell, they are either used right away to produce energy, or stored as fat. If the cells do not receive enough sugars from the blood stream, the liver will manufacture sugars in order to give you some energy.

People who have high blood sugars in their blood stream because the sugar does not get into the cell to be used in producing energy are said to have diabetes.

What are the different types of diabetes?

  1. Type 1 diabetes
  2. Type 2 diabetes
  3. Gestational diabetes mellitus (diabetes diagnosed in the second or third trimester of pregnancy)
  4. Specific types of diabetes like:
  • neonatal diabetes
  • maturity-onset diabetes of the young
  • diabetes caused by some diseases of the pancreas
  • drug or chemical-induced diabetes

Type 1 diabetes: This type of diabetes occurs when the cells of the pancreas that produce insulin have been damaged, and so not enough insulin or no insulin is produced.  Once there is a shortage of insulin, blood sugars remain in the blood stream because there is no key available to let them into the cells. This type of diabetes is commonly diagnosed for the first time in people who are younger than 20years old. Since it takes long for the cells that produce insulin to be destroyed, type 1 diabetes can also be diagnosed in people who are older than 20 years of age. Also most people with type 1 diabetes have a family member who had type 1 diabetes. It is considered a disease that runs in the family also known as hereditary disease. People with type 1 diabetes need insulin injections in order to let blood sugars into the cells and by so doing; lower blood sugars in their blood stream.

Type 2 diabetes: People who have type 2 diabetes produce insulin, either in an inadequate amount, or the insulin they produce does not work well for them. It does not appropriately enable the sugars in the blood stream to go from the blood stream into the cells where it can be used to produce energy. When this happens, the blood sugars remain high in the blood stream. This type of diabetes is commonly diagnosed in adults usually older than 45 years of age, and who are usually overweight. When people are overweight, insulin may not work appropriately for them. This is called insulin resistance.  Some people with type 2 diabetes who are overweight can get their insulin to work better by losing weight through diet and exercise. 

Type 2 diabetes is treated with medications by mouth, and when that is not appropriately controlling the blood sugars, insulin injections may be needed.

A third type of diabetes occurs in women who are pregnant. This is called gestational diabetes....Let me know if you would like to know more.

There are also some specific types of diabetes ......Let me know if you would like to know more.

Who is at risk of having Diabetes?

  • People who have family members with diabetes
  • Overweight
  • Black people
  • People with high blood pressure, high bad cholesterol (LDL) or triglyceride
  • Older people
  • Smokers or people who drink a lot of alcohol
  • History of autoimmune disease
  • People with high blood sugars or diabetes when they are pregnant

When do you suspect that you have diabetes: (Symptoms)

  • Increase thirst and a dry mouth
  • Increase hunger
  • Frequent urination
  • Fatigue, feeling weak and tired most of the times
  • Unintentional weight lose despite feeling more hungry and eating more
  • Slow healing of wounds
  • Tingling of the hands or toes
  • Numbness of the fingers and toes
  • Dry and itchy skin especially around the private area
  • Frequent yeast infection


If you have a few of these symptoms, you should let your doctor know so they could check your blood sugars and the blood A1C also known as hemoglobin A1C or glycated hemoglobin.

What will the doctor look for to say you have diabetes?

  • Random blood sugars greater than 200mg/dl in two separate occasions
  • A1C levels greater than 6.5% in two separate days
  • Blood sugar equal or greater than 126mg/dl when you have not eaten anything for 8 hours, or
  • Blood sugars greater than 200ng/dl after a glucose tolerance test, then you have diabetes

These tests have to be ordered and interpreted by your doctor

Complications of Diabetes

The main organs that diabetes can damage are:

  • The Brain
  • The eyes
  • The heart
  • The kidneys

People with diabetes should be careful not to get their blood sugars to low.

Low blood sugars can lead to acute confusion, fatigue, sleepiness, or even passing out completely.  This is a medical emergency and the patient needs to be treated right away.

How can you prevent or delay type 2 diabetes?

  • Intensive diet and physical activity targeting to weight lose 7% of you your body weight
  • Increase moderate-intense physical activity suck as fast walking to 150min/week
  • Some people who are obese, less than 60 years of age or have had diabetes during pregnancy may be eligible for medications by mouth to prevent or delay the development of diabetes
  • If you are at high risk of developing heart disease, you will need to reduce these risks

Some of the common risks for heart disease include:

  • Smoking
  • Eating foods that are high in cholesterol or unhealthy fats
  • Overweight/obese
  • Frequent alcohol consumption
  • High blood pressure
  • Lack of physical exercise
  • Family members with heart disease

What can you do if your blood sugars are high or have been diagnosed with diabetes?

  • Take your medications as prescribed by your doctor
  • Watch your diet and exercise
  • Let people around you know that if you pass out; they should first give you sugars or something sweet
  • If you are sweaty, check your blood sugars right away.
  • Some people may wear a band which says they have diabetes so that when they pass out people could easily help them

Low blood sugars are very dangerous also, and can lead to severe medical problems and even death faster than very high blood sugars which are also very dangerous. If your blood sugar drops to low levels, you have to immediately let your doctor know immediately (after taking sweets to bring up the sugars)


Good to Know

  • Eating too much sugar will not cause you to have diabetes. It may cause you to gain weight and so putting you at a high risk of type 2 diabetes
  • You cannot catch diabetes from someone else.
  • Garlic does not treat diabetes

The internet has many physical exercise programs and sources on how to eat right for people with diabetes or people at risk of developing diabetes

To read more please click here

Prof. J. Akwe's health Column


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Cameroon Concord  is an online publication covering and reporting on  local and world news, sports, entertainment, politics, business, and religious news. Serving Cameroonians .



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