Diabetes is a long-term condition where your blood sugar level is higher than usual.
Our body converts the food we eat into glucose. In a normal person, insulin (created by the pancreas) acts on cells throughout the body to stimulate uptake, utilisation and storage of glucose. People with diabetes do not produce enough insulin or the insulin produced does not work well. As a result, sugar builds up in the blood and causes diabetes.
Who are at Risk?
Diabetes is one of the top 10 chronic diseases in Singapore, and can affect people of any age. 90 per cent of people with diabetes are those over 40 years of age. Risk factors include:
- Family history of diabetes
- Being overweight
- Leading a sedentary lifestyle
- If you are above 40 years old
- Past history of diabetes during pregnancy
- Impaired glucose tolerance or impaired fasting blood glucose level (pre-diabetes state)
- Getting viral infections that have damaged the pancreas
Types of Diabetes
There are three types of diabetes:
Type I Diabetes
People with type 1 diabetes produce little or no insulin, because the insulin-producing cells are attacked by their immune system. Blood glucose levels are not regulated due to the lack of insulin in their body. While it mostly occurs during childhood, diabetes can develop at any age. This type of diabetes cannot be cured or prevented, and people have to rely on insulin injections to control their blood glucose level.
Type II Diabetes
People with Type 2 diabetes can produce insulin normally, but their bodies are unable to use it to process glucose. This causes blood sugar levels to rise. We can prevent Type 2 diabetes by leading a healthy lifestyle and maintaining a healthy weight range. People with this condition will require medication or insulin therapy to manage their blood sugar level.
Gestational Diabetes Mellitus
This condition only occurs during pregnancy. While gestational diabetes usually goes away upon delivery, women who have had this condition are at a higher risk of type 2 diabetes. Their baby is also at a higher risk of developing obesity and / or diabetes in adulthood. About one in seven births are affected by gestational diabetes.
Some diabetics do not show any symptoms and are only diagnosed during a routine health check.
Some may experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- Frequent passing of urine
- Excessive thirst
- Weight loss despite eating well
- Tiredness and weakness
- Delayed healing of wounds
- Numbness and reduced sensation in the hands or feet
- Blurred vision
If you are over 40 years old, check your blood glucose at least once a year. If you have any of the above risk factors or signs and symptoms, you may take our diabetes assessment tool to evaluate your risk of diabetes, or seek medical help.
Complications of Diabetes
Diabetes may cause health complications if left uncontrolled. They can be either acute or chronic.
- Diabetic ketoacidosis: The body uses fat as an energy source when there is not enough insulin to convert glucose into energy. This results in the production of ketones, which is harmful to your body. Symptoms include thirst, passing large amounts of urine, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. Diabetic ketoacidosis is a serious condition and requires immediate medical attention.
- Hypoglycaemia: A result of having blood sugar that is too low, hypoglycaemia usually happens if you did not take your diabetes medicationinclude enough carbohydrates in your meal, or engage in more strenuous activities than usual. Symptoms include irritability, confusion, tremors, profuse perspiration, rapid heartbeat, and feelings of hunger. You need to recognise the symptoms early and quickly consume food that is high in sugar to avoid complications.
Persistent high blood glucose levels can cause poor blood flow to many organs. This may lead to many serious complications such as blindness, high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, impotence, infections, numbness of hands and feet, and delayed healing of wounds.
Learn more about the various complications of diabetes here.
How to Manage Diabetes
Eating a well-balanced diet and staying physically active is important in preventing and controlling diabetes.
Here are some things you can do to manage diabetes:
You should get screened regularly if you are at high risk of developing diabetes (being obese, have a family history of diabetes, have high blood pressure). You can detect the diabetes early, which enables you to better control the disease and reduce the risk of complications from occurring.
If you have diabetes, keeping the disease under control ensures you maintain your quality of life and reduce the risk of complications arising. You should also take your medications as prescribed. In addition, you should regularly keep track of your blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure levels.
The Raffles Flash Glucose Monitoring Package allows you to track your blood sugar easily and conveniently. Additionally, our dietitians and endocrinologists will also help you interpret your blood sugar trends, and give you insights and advice based on the results.
Exercising regularly causes our muscles to use the accumulated blood sugar, which keep it at healthy levels. By keeping your weight under control and regularly exercising, you can lower your risk of diabetes by five to seven percent.
Having a balanced and healthy diet keeps our blood sugar in control. You should also choose foods that are lower in sugar, or have the Healthier Choice Label.
If you need more help in keeping your diabetes under control, you should seek advice from a medical professional, such as an endocrinologist. He or she will work with you to develop a diabetes management plan.