Diabetes ( correctly, Diabetes Mellitus ) is a condition where there is an excessive level of glucose in the blood due to deficiency of insulin. A person is said to have diabetes if his fasting blood glucose levels are equal to or greater than 126 mg/dl or blood sugar levels after 2 hrs of eating exceed 180 mg/dl. Additionally, a person can be said to have diabetes if random blood glucose levels is more than 200 mg/dl and the person has symptoms like excessive thirst, excessive urination or excessive hunger.
How do we get energy?
We get energy for our daily activities from the components of the food we eat, namely carbohydrates, protein and fats. Carbohydrates in the food are broken down in the intestines and are absorbed as glucose into the bloodstream. The glucose moves into the blood and is carried to different parts of the body, especially the liver.
The cells cannot use the glucose for energy unless adequate amount or insulin is present in the blood ( see Figure 1 ).
Non-diabetic people have a normal glucose level because they are able to release insulin into the blood as much as is needed. This is done automatically done by the pancreas, specifically the beta-cells in the Islet of Langerhans in the pancreas.
Any excess glucose, after it has been utilised for energy, is stored in the liver and other some other organs as glycogen. Excessive glucose can also be converted and stored as fat.
When the need arises, glycogen can be again broken down into glucose, for energy. For example, when a person is fasting or has excessive physical activity.
What is Diabetes?
Simply speaking Diabetes mellitus is a group of metabolic diseases having the following characteristics
- High Blood glucose levels
- Disturbance in metabolism of carbs, fat and protein
- Defects in production of insulin
- Defects in action of insulin
High levels of blood glucose ( also referred to as hyperglycemia ) causes glucose to spill into the urine, hence the term diabetes mellitus or “sweet urine.”
High blood glucose levels occur due not having sufficient levels of insulin.
The reasons for not having sufficient insulin are
- Either the body has stopped making insulin ( which is also called Type 1 diabetes )
- The amount of insulin is lower than what is needed or the insulin is not working efficiently ( which is also called Type 2 diabetes )
High blood glucose levels over time damage the tissues and organs throughout the body and result in severe consequences