Diabetes: causes and symptoms

Diabetes: causes and symptoms

When it comes to diabetes, it is good to do it in depth: it is a pathology with which you can live well, just know it thoroughly and observe some rules. Diabetes mellitus (or sweet) is a chronic metabolic disease, characterized by an increase in blood sugar. This condition is caused by a defect in function or production by the pancreas of insulin.

The scientific world agrees that diabetes – both type 1 and type 2 – is not hereditary. However, it is clear that some people are born with a greater predisposition to the development of the disease. The diabetes has always been associated with excessive consumption of sugars. There is no doubt that having a diet too rich in sugar is not good. In fact, it increases the risk of insulin resistance and is the cause of overweight , a situation that can stimulate possible metabolic disorders.

What is insulin

To understand what insulin is, we must first explain what the Langerhans Islands are: agglomerations of highly vascularized cells, located in the pancreas and discovered precisely by the German pathologist Paul Langerhans in 1869. They are cells sensitive to blood sugar (the level of glucose in the blood ) and therefore intervene in the secretion of various hormones able to regulate it.

Insulin is precisely a hormone produced by beta cells within the islands of Langherhans, which allows the body to use glucose for the energy processes inside the cells by regulating their input and use. It is indispensable for the metabolism of sugars.

When the blood glucose level is too high, insulin is produced , with the function of lowering blood sugar thanks to the action of various metabolic and cellular processes.

Instead, when insulin is produced in insufficient quantities by the pancreas or the body’s cells do not respond to its presence, there will be higher than normal glucose levels in the blood (hyperglycaemia), thus promoting the appearance of diabetes.

Blood Sugar values

Blood Sugar values

The causes of diabetes

The causes of diabetes are of different types and are also distinguished by the specific type of pathology.

The diabetes type 1 is caused by a malfunction of the immune system . This, in response to a stimulus of probable viral or otherwise infectious nature, determines a self-aggressive response towards the pancreas.

For type 2 diabetes , the causes of the disease are related to a set of factors , including genetic familiarity and environmental factors , along with lifestyle and eating habits.

Let’s see in detail some of the most common causes in the onset of this pathology.

Genetic and environmental factors

If you have cases of diabetes in the family , this does not mean that you will get sick too, however, since familiarity has its weight , it is important that you take it into account and lead a healthy lifestyle.

In addition to familiarity, there are also environmental factors that help trigger diabetes. For example, a favorable condition is cold (perhaps because it favors the spread of viral pathologies). Type 1 diabetes has been noted to develop more often in winter than in summer.

Or early weaning : there has been a lower incidence of the disease in those who are breastfed or weaned later. Finally, as we age, the chances of developing diabetes mellitus increase.

Eating habits: the weight of saturated fats
Eating habits: the weight of saturated fats

Incorrect nutrition is a very important risk factor for the development of type 2 diabetes. In particular, what really increases the possibility of contracting this disease is a diet that is excessively rich in saturated fats .

In fact, when our body receives excess saturated fat , they interact with cellular receptors that can give rise to lipotoxicity and oxidative stress . Simply put, cellular damage is generated .

Among the cells easily affected by oxidative stress are the beta cells of the pancreas , i.e. the cells responsible for insulin production.

To summarize, the most important factors related to nutrition and lifestyle are:

  • diet too rich in simple sugars . The absorption of these sugars, in fact, requires a very high amount of insulin. Those who are predisposed to diabetes mellitus therefore come to “exhaust” the capacity , already limited for genetic reasons, of the cells that produce insulin.
  • Sedentary lifestyle. One of the most important causes of type 2 diabetes is an excessively sedentary life: many studies have now shown that regular physical activity hinders the onset of this pathology.
  • High cholesterol and hypertension . Again, much research shows that an excessive amount of bad blood cholesterol (LDL) compared to good blood cholesterol (HDL) is an important factor in the development of type 2 diabetes. Likewise, those suffering from hypertension are more predisposed to develop the pathology.
  • Obesity. Of course, increasing body weight leads to an increase in triglycerides. These, once in excess, also accumulate in the pancreatic cells , a factor that decreases the function of the latter, causing the disease: a particularly true figure in cases of obesity.

Insulin resistance

insulin resistance is a condition characterized by a decrease of the effects biological insulin. In other words, what happens is that the cells of our body become insensitive to the action of insulin, resulting in persistent hyperglycaemia. The consequence is that the pancreas is stimulated to secrete ever greater amounts of insulin, thus leading to hyperinsulinemia.

In the initial phase of this condition, the increased production of insulin compensates for the resistance of the cells, thus maintaining normal blood sugar levels. Unfortunately, in the advanced stage , the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas are unable to adapt, with the consequence of an increase in post-prandial blood sugar (numerical value indicating how much glucose is present in the blood after two hours after the end of a meal) .

We can therefore consider insulin resistance as the antechamber of diabetes : a correct diagnosis is important to prevent the onset of the disease.In addition, there are transitory conditions that can promote insulin resistance, such as:

  • infections
  • inflammations
  • weight gain
  • pregnancy
  • use of certain medications such as cortisone.
The symptoms of diabetes

The symptoms of diabetes

Diabetes is a subtle disease in some ways, as some of the symptoms appear when it has been present for years. In general, the symptoms of diabetes are all closely related to the phenomenon of hyperglycaemia.

Among the most evident symptoms of type 1 diabetes we have:

  • polyuria. It is the increase in the amount of urine emitted over the 24 hours and, in particular, during the night
  • Polydipsia. An abnormal increase in thirst. This, in particular, depends on the previous symptom, polyuria, which causes an excessive expulsion of liquids
  • Paradoxical polyphagia . It is the increase in appetite and food intake that, instead of causing weight gain, instead causes weight loss
  • Fatigue and tiredness. A sudden and abnormal sense of tiredness and chronic fatigue are some of the most obvious symptoms of diabetes
  • Blurred vision. Another “recognizable” symptom is that of sudden blurred vision.

To these are added other ailments and symptoms that develop after the onset of the disease:

  • headaches
  • slow wound healing
  • itch
  • tendency to develop infections
  • irritability.

The symptoms of type 2 diabetes coincide, at least in part, with the symptoms of type 1 diabetes . So polyuria, polydipsia, fatigue, wounds that do not heal easily, loss of vision, headache, irritability and ease of developing infections.

The only symptom not present in those suffering from type 2 diabetes is polyphagia.

To know about treatment of diabetes read our article on: Treatment and Therapies for diabetes

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