What is Diabetes?

In general terms, diabetes occurs when our body is unable to make proper use of glucose. This may happen either because of a lack of the hormone insulin in the organism, or because the insulin that is available simply does not work effectively.

A recognized condition for over 3,500 years

Diabetes, one of the most common health problems of our day, has been around for quite a while - the first medical records of the condition are dated to over 3,500 years ago. The disease's full name 'diabetes mellitus' comes from the Greek word 'diabetes', meaning 'siphon' and 'mellitus' - the Latin word for 'sweet'. An excess of sugar is found not only in the diabetics' blood, but also in the urine, and it is not a wonder, then, that in the seventeenth century the disease was also known as 'the pissing evil'.

Two types of diabetes

Over three-quarters of the people with diabetes worldwide have what is known as type II diabetes or non-insulin dependent diabetes, and the rest have type I insulin-dependent diabetes. Insulin-dependent diabetes (type I) usually develops in childhood and young adulthood. In this case, the body is unable to produce any insulin, so the people with type I diabetes are on daily intake of this hormone, accompanied by a strict diet. The people with type II diabetes have an insufficient amount of insulin in their bodies. This type of diabetes usually develops after the age of forty and is successfully treated with different blood sugar control medicines.

A common problem

Diabetes, as said above, is one of the most common health problems of our societies.

The charity organization Diabetes UK has recently released information saying that more than two million people in the UK have the disease and up to 750,000 more are believed to have it without realizing they do. Still, UK has the lowest diabetes rate in the EU - about four percent of the British people have developed the disease; on the other end of the spectrum is Germany, where 11.8 of the population have diabetes, according to information of the EU Observer.


Who is at risk?

Although scientists are still unable to determine what exactly causes diabetes, the assumptions point to autoimmune reactions causing our own body to destroy the cells that produce insulin, thus causing type I diabetes. Other theories focus on specific bacterial infections or exposure to food-borne chemical toxins, predicting that the number of diabetics worldwide will run double over the next decade.

Type II diabetes usually develops with age, but researchers have also found out that people of Asian or African-Caribbean origin are exposed to higher risk of diabetes. Physically inactive or overweight people are also prone to developing type II diabetes. The results of a recent research quoted on the BBC website show that a waist size greater than 89 cm in women and 102 cm in men significantly increase the risk of developing diabetes.

Diabetes prevention programs

The World Health Organization (WHO) warns about the emerging global diabetes' epidemic that can be attributed to the rapid growth in the number of overweight people, obesity, as well as physical inactivity. In a bid to curb this social plight, many countries have developed diabetes prevention programs, involving the establishment of special day care centers for the people with diabetes. Hot telephone lines are opened to help people who have been diagnosed with diabetes. The goal is to overcome the initial stress and depression and to treat the complications caused by the disease, such as sight-impairment, hearing problems, skin infections, etc. Successful prevention of diabetes inevitably entails the development of programs, preventing overweight and obesity among the adolescent and increasing their physical activity.