DIABETES: Causes, Types, Effects and How To Prevent and Treat the Disease

Diabetes can be cured, controlled and prevented iff an individual watches on the food they eat and general lifestyle.

Diabetes is a chronic and sometimes fatal illness where the body cannot produce insulin or effectively use the insulin it produces. Normally, the pancreas, which is a small organ behind the stomach, releases insulin which helps the body use and store the sugar and fat from the food you eat. Diabetes then occurs when the pancreas produces very little or no insulin, or when the body does not respond to insulin. Diabetes is a chronic disease and people living with it can only manage their lifestyle in order to stay healthy but cannot be cured.

According to research done the prevalence of diabetes in Kenya has more than doubled within the last three decades since the first global report on diabetes. The report jointly published by the World Health Organization and the Lancet shows that today, one in seventeen Kenyans is living with diabetes

Types of diabetes

Type 1 diabetes, formally known as juvenile diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults. This type of diabetes is believed to be an auto immune condition. It happens when your immune system mistakenly attacks the beta cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. The damage is usually permanent and what causes the attack isn’t clear although it is thought to be both genetic and environmental components. This type of diabetes affects about five to ten percent of people with diabetes.  This type of diabetes is normally controlled using insulin as well as meal planning which helps maintain blood sugar at the right levels.

Type 2 diabetes. This affects about 90 percent of people living with diabetes. It starts as insulin resistance. This is when the body cannot properly use the insulin released or when the body doesn’t make enough insulin. As a result, sugar levels build up since it isn’t being converted to energy. The exact cause of this type of diabetes is unknown but some of the contributing factors are genetics, lack of exercise and being overweight

Gestational diabetes. This only occurs during pregnancy when the body produces insulin blocking hormones.


General symptoms of diabetes include;

  • Frequent urination
  • Excessive thirst and hunger
  • Drowsiness and fatigue
  • Blurry vision
  • Dry, itchy skin
  • Slow healing wounds

Type one diabetes often develops more quickly and can cause a condition known as diabetic ketoacidosis, which means the individual has got very high sugar levels with little or no insulin in the body. With type2 diabetes, it often takes longer to diagnose, and symptoms may be felt at the time of diagnosis, like pain and numbness in your feet or arms.

Potential complications

Complications associated with diabetes develop over time. Poorly controlled sugar levels increase the risk of having these chronic complications which may include

  • Vessel disease leading to strokes or heart attacks
  • Retinopathy
  • Skin infections
  • Neuropathy (nerve damage)- may lead to amputation
  • Kidney failure

Complications in pregnancy cause increased risk of high blood pressure, preeclampsia, miscarriages and birth defects in the child.


Prevention and Treatment

Whether diagnosed with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, one needs to keep it under control and keep the glucose levels within your target range as advised by your physician.

For people with type 1 diabetes, they must take insulin injections since damage to their pancreas is permanent. They may also need to take medication to control cholesterol, high blood pressure or other complications.

There’s no cure for type 1 diabetes. It only requires lifelong disease management and with consistent monitoring and adherence to treatment, you may be able to avoid some of the more serious complications of the disease.

For type 2, If you work closely with your doctor and make good lifestyle choices, it can often be successfully managed.

If you have gestational diabetes, chances are it will resolve after your baby is born though you do have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

Since it is thought to be genetic, there’s no known prevention for type 1 diabetes.

You can lower your risk of type 2 diabetes if you control your weight and manage your diet, exercise regularly and avoid smoking.

If you had gestational diabetes or have prediabetes, these habits can delay or prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes.