Diabetes: Its Types, Symptoms, Risk Factors, and Management (Part One)

by Deep, Radi, and Mithu on October 13, 2010

in Topical Health Issues


The word “diabetes” has Greek origins as the name for a disease involving the discharge of excessive amounts of urine. Its English derivative was first recorded as “diabete” in a medical text written around 1425.

In 1675, the word mellitus from the Latin word for honey was added as a reference to the sweet taste of the urine.

In 1776, Mathew Dobson confirmed that the sweet taste was caused by an excess of sugar in the blood and urine of diabetic patients. This had been discovered much earlier in ancient India when Sushruta (6th century BC) classified diabetes as “Madhumeha” meaning “sugar urine disease”. He further correctly identified it as being linked to a sedentary lifestyle and obesity.

While the identification of the disease goes back to ancient times, the causes of diabetes were only identified much more recently.

The discovery of the connection with the pancreas is generally credited to Joseph von Mering and Oskar Minkowski, who in 1889 found that dogs developed all the signs and symptoms of diabetes following the removal of their pancreas and died soon thereafter.

In 1910, Sir Edward Albert Sharpey-Schafer further postulated that diabetics were deficient in a single chemical normally produced by the pancreas; he proposed calling this substance insulin.

Insulin is a hormone that controls the amount of glucose in the blood. The existence of insulin and its role as a preventative against diabetes was proven by Sir Frederick Grant Banting and Charles Herbert Best, who in 1921 demonstrated that they could reverse induced diabetes in dogs by giving them an insulin extract from the pancreas of healthy dogs.

Banting, Best and others went on to develop insulin injections and the first patient was treated in 1922. Banting and a laboratory director called MacLeod received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1923 and today Banting is honored on World Diabetes Day, which is held on his birthday, November 14.


Type 1 Diabetes:

Type 1, which is the most serious, occurs approximately in 10 percent of all diabetics and is usually diagnosed in children and adults. In this variant, the pancreas does not produce insulin at all and therefore insulin therapy is the basic form of treatment and is administered by syringe, pen, or pump. Glucose levels build up in the blood instead of being used for energy and insulin is needed to regulate its production.

The chief distinction between Types 1 and 2 diabetes is that that the taking of insulin is virtually mandatory with Type 1 whereas this may not be necessary with Type 2. With both Types 1 and 2 diabetes, a healthy diet and exercise are essential to keep glucose levels down.

Type 2 Diabetes:

Type 2 is the most common form of diabetes and occurs when the pancreas produces insufficient insulin or when the body does not effectively use the insulin that is produced.

Glucose is produced by the body from certain foodstuffs like rice, bread, potatoes, pasta, milk, and fruit. It is meant to be utilized for energy purposes. However, in diabetics, unless steps are taken to regulate its production, the levels will continue to build up in the bloodstream and will not be expended for energy purposes.

Type 2 diabetes is less serious than Type 1 and blood glucose levels can be regulated by eating healthy meals and snacks, exercising regularly, and taking diabetes medications (including insulin) if necessary.

Over time, high blood glucose levels can cause complications such as blindness, heart disease, kidney problems, nerve damage, and erectile dysfunction. Fortunately, good diabetes care and management can prevent or delay the onset of these complications.

Gestational Diabetes:

Gestational diabetes is a temporary condition that occurs during pregnancy. It occurs in about 2 percent to 5 percent of all pregnancies and may improve or disappear after delivery. It is fully treatable but requires careful medical monitoring and supervision throughout the term of the pregnancy. About 20 percent to 50 percent of affected women develop type 2 diabetes later in life.

Untreated gestational diabetes during pregnancy can be dangerous to the health of the fetus or mother. Common complications include macrosomia (high birth weight), congenital cardiac and central nervous system anomalies, and skeletal muscle malformations. There is also the possibility of red blood cell destruction and sometimes cesarean sections are required if there is marked fetal distress.

A 2008 study conducted in the U.S. found that more American women are entering pregnancy with preexisting diabetes, and the number of cases may have possibly doubled in the last decade. This is particularly problematic as diabetes raises the risk of complications during pregnancy, as well as increasing the potential that the children of diabetic mothers will also become diabetic in the future.


There is an increased risk for Type 2 diabetes for people who are aged 40 or more. There is also an increased risk for overweight individuals, especially if most of the weight is abdominal fat. Typical symptoms and signs of diabetes include the following:

  • Unusual thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Weight change (gain or loss)
  • Extreme fatigue or lack of energy
  • Blurred vision
  • 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. After the age of 40 the risk of diabetes 2 increases and should be tested for every three years at least. Certain ethnic groups are more susceptible to the disease than others e.g. Aboriginals, Hispanics, Asians, South Asians, and Africans.

There is also a hereditary and genetic correlation – individuals are more at risk if a brother, sister or parent has the disease. Diabetes has a direct linkage to obesity, especially if the weight is centered around the midriff.


There are some important tips diabetics can follow in order to keep the disease under control and help maintain overall health and wellness.  They include:

  • Not smoking.
  • Following  a balanced meal plan.
  • Maintaining a regular exercise regimen. It is not necessary to exercise vigorously in the gym every day, but it is important to be physically active. Little tips that help include walking briskly where possible instead of taking cars or other transport. Swimming, other sports, biking, yoga etc. are healthier alternatives to sitting in front of the television or computer all day long.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight.
  • Controlling stress.
  • Regulating blood pressure.
  • Checking  blood glucose levels regularly.
  • Keeping cholesterol and other blood fats within a target range.
  • Take care of your feet. Diabetes can cause nerve damage and poor blood flow to the feet so it is important to check your feet regularly for cuts, blisters, sores, swelling, redness, or sore toenails.
  • In addition to regular check-ups with your doctor, regular visits to your dentist and eye doctor are advisable. As we mentioned earlier, diabetes can lead to blurred vision and eventual blindness. Diabetics are also more vulnerable to germs in the mouth and therefore more likely to have infections of their gums and the bones that hold the teeth in place.


As discussed earlier, a healthy diet is critical in helping to control blood glucose levels. Some important factors to be taken into account include:

1)      Eating meals at regular times and not spacing them more than six hours apart. Eating at regular times helps in controlling glucose levels.

2)      Limiting the intake of sugar and sweets as these increase blood glucose levels.

3)      Eating high fibre foods like whole grain breads and cereals, lentils, beans and peas, brown rice, vegetables, and fruit. These help to lower glucose and cholesterol levels.

4)      Avoiding fried and high-fat foods in order to regulate body weight.

5)      Avoiding soft drinks and juice which raise blood glucose. Water is best.

The key food groups for a balanced diet include vegetables and fruit, grain products, milk or substitutes, and meat or substitutes. Every meal should contain at least three foodstuffs out of these four groups.

The Canadian Diabetic Association (http://www.diabetes.ca/) offers some guidelines with regard to the portions of each of these food groups when planning a meal and suggests using your hands as a ‘handy’ measuring tool in estimating the correct size of these portions:

1)      Fruits/Grains/Starches: an amount the size of your fist for each of these items.

2)      Vegetables: as much as it is possible to hold in both hands.

3)      Meat and substitutes: an amount the size of the palm of your hand and the thickness of your little finger.

4)      Fats: an amount the size the tip of your thumb.


The purpose of this article is to give our readers a general understanding of diabetes and its symptoms along with general guidelines for controlling the disease. As is the case with so many other health-related illnesses, the increasing prevalence of diabetes has a direct correlation to modern sedentary lifestyles, stress, obesity, and unhealthy diets. There are approximately 285 million people worldwide affected by the disease with this number expected to hit 438 million by 2030. It can, without exaggeration, be termed a global epidemic

We will follow up shortly with a second article (Part Two) in which we examine various holistic options for preventing and treating diabetes. We do not claim that these treatments are a cure in themselves. However, coupled with wise choices with regard to physical activity, healthy eating, and weight loss they may help to prevent or delay the onset of this disease, and to significantly mitigate or even reverse its often devastating effects.

Key References Sources:

1)      Canadian Diabetes Association

2)      The Heart And Stroke Foundation Of Canada

3)      Wikipedia – Diabetes mellitus

Disclaimer: The information contained in this website is only intended to educate and inform our readers. It is in no way intended to provide medical advice or to diagnose or treat any disease. If you have a health problem, you should consult a healthcare practitioner before taking any substances for medicinal purposes.


  • At 2010.10.14 01:38, Keranamu Gula said:

    Such a complete information you have here. Those with diabetes will appreciate you.

    • At 2010.10.21 07:13, roclafamilia said:

      Helpful blog, bookmarked the website with hopes to read more!

      (Required, will not be published)

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