Diabetes Mellitus – What is it? by Dr. Nnamdi Elenwoke


Diabetes mellitus is a chronic metabolic disease which results in high levels of blood glucose. Insulin is the hormone that reduces the glucose level of the blood. But, in diabetes mellitus, the production of insulin or the body’s sensitivity to this hormone is reduced.

Diabetes is the 8th most common cause of death worldwide, in between Diarrhoea (7th) and Road accidents (9th). Around 50% of these deaths occur before the age of 70 years. The global prevalence among adults over 18 years of age is 8.5% in 2014, up from 4.7% in 1980. Diabetes is a very important cause of blindness, kidney and heart disease, stroke and lower limb amputation.


There are 2 main types of diabetes mellitus:

Diabetes mellitus type 1, in which the insulin production of the pancreas is reduced, is diagnosed in childhood or adolescence.
Diabetes mellitus type 2, in which insulin resistance is the main cause, is diagnosed usually after 45 years of age.

We also have:

Gestational diabetes seen in pregnancy. Patients have high risk of complications during pregnancy and at child delivery. In the future they and their children have elevated risk of Diabetes type 2.

Impaired glucose tolerance and impaired fasting glycaemia are in between normal and diabetes diagnosis. Patients also have high risk of developing to Diabetes type 2 later in life.

Even though in type 1 Diabetes there is a low level of insulin in the blood, in type 2 Diabetes the insulin level of the body remains normal. Whichever the type of diabetes mellitus it is, it can damage almost all the cells of your body; starting from your blood vessels, kidneys, heart to the eyes and even the nervous system.

Actually, some health practitioners recognize this disease as the most dangerous disease that could highly reduce a person’s quality of life.


The appearance of the symptoms of type 1 diabetes is dramatic and sudden, while in type 2 diabetes, the symptoms are attributed to aging and obesity.

Here are the most common symptoms of both kinds of diabetes;


  • In diabetes, many people feel fatigue or a constant feeling of being tired and this is due to the inability of the body to use glucose as fuel.
  • Unexplained weight loss is also apparent due to the elimination of more water and glucose with the urine.
  • Excessive thirst which is also known as polydipsia will also result due to polyuria or excessive urine excretion in diabetes mellitus.
  • Excessive eating or polyphagia can also be present, even though there will be a significant weight reduction.
  • Diabetes reduces the immunity of a person, which is important in body’s defense and cleaning up the dead tissue. Due to this, diabetic patients will get exposed to recurrent infections and will also suffer from poor wound healing.
  • Irritability, agitation, lethargy, and inattention can reflect in very serious conditions such as ketoacidosis, hyperglycemia (extremely high levels of blood glucose) and hypoglycemia (extremely low levels of blood glucose).
  • Blurred vision, reduced hearing and also many other unexplained symptoms can be a result of diabetes.

Doctor’s office

The normal fasting blood glucose level of a healthy person is 100mg/dl. Your health practitioner will ask you to do a fasting blood sugar test, postprandial glucose test, oral glucose tolerance test or a hemoglobin A1c test to diagnose diabetes and to see if the implemented management plan is effective in treating your condition. If visiting your doctor to check the sugar level is not possible all the time, you may do your simple finger stick blood glucose test at home as a method of screening. Due to the possible high rates of inaccuracy, make sure you repeat the test twice if your first reading was too low or too high.

dm_blood_test_levels_chart-1Source: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

Diabetes Mellitus – Treatment

Even though medically, diabetes is treated with medications and insulin, the real way of battling this condition is by implementing lifestyle modifications such as weight reduction, healthy diet, physical activeness, cessation smoking, and alcohol together with the medical treatments. This will highly help you in obtaining the lost quality of life and to maintain a healthy level of blood glucose.




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