What is Diabetes?
Diabetes Mellitus, commonly referred to as diabetes, is a long-term illness characterised by a high sugar (or glucose) level in the blood. Someone with diabetes is either producing too little insulin or is unable to respond well to the insulin produced.
- In Singapore, one out of 9 people aged 18 to 69 has diabetes. That’s about 11.3% of our population or more than 400,000 people.
- Diabetes is the fifth most common medical condition diagnosed and one of the six top killer diseases in the country.
- Diabetes is a chronic disease and, if not managed well, can deteriorate steadily to cause devastating complications such as blindness, nerve damage, kidney failure, heart disease and limb amputation.
- Studies show that about half of patients already have diabetes-related complications at the time of diagnosis.
Who gets Diabetes?
About 9% of the adult populations in Singapore have diabetes. Diabetes can affect people of any age or race. However, 90% of people with diabetes are over 40 years old.
Some risks of Diabetes Mellitus include:
- Family history
- Unhealthy Diet
- Lack of Exercise
- More than 40 years of age
- Exposure to a trigger mechanism (a virus or chemical substance)
Types of Diabetes Mellitus
There are two main types of diabetes:
Type 1 (Insulin-dependent diabetes):
Person with Type 1 diabetes cannot control their blood sugar properly because their pancreas produces little or no insulin. The body’s own immune system (the system in the body that produces substances to help it fight against infection and disease) mistakenly destroys the insulin producing cells in the pancreas. They need insulin injections to control their blood sugars. It usually happens to young people. It can also occur in older adults, but less commonly.
Type 2 (Non-insulin dependent diabetes):
About 80% of all persons with diabetes belong to this group. They can produce insulin, but their body does not use it effectively.
Type 2 diabetes can be controlled by diet, exercise and medicines. If these fail, insulin injections may be needed.
Some women develop diabetes during pregnancy – gestational diabetes. A family history of diabetes is an important risk factor. Gestational diabetes usually disappears after the baby is born, but it may reappear during next pregnancies. In some women, gestational diabetes leads to diabetes mellitus.
Signs & Symptoms
The common symptoms of diabetes are:
- frequent thirst despite drinking lots of water
- constant hunger
- constant tiredness
- itchy skin especially around the genital area
- passing excessive urine during day and night
- weight loss despite good appetite
- poor healing of cuts and wounds
The long-term complications of diabetes include:
- coronary heart disease such as angina, heart attack
- eye disease
- kidney disease
- foot disease such as numbness, ulcers and even gangrene
- nerve disease
Prevention of Diabetes
At present, no cure is available for diabetes. But with regular self-monitoring of blood glucose and a proper combination of diet, exercise and medication, people with diabetes lead active, healthy lives. Research studies have found that lifestyle changes can prevent or delay the onset of Type 2 diabetes among high-risk adults. Changing diet and adding moderate exercise reduced the development of diabetes in study participants by over 40% during the study.
The goal of diabetes care is to keep your blood sugar level within the target range specified by your doctor. This can help avoid some long-term problems of diabetes. As a result, you will feel healthier, more active and more in control of your life.
1) Have a proper diet
Besides insulin and medicines, eating a healthy diet helps you keep your blood glucose under control. It also helps to maintain your weight at a healthy level. Use the Healthy Diet Pyramid.
2) Engage in regular physical activity
Regular physical activity is an important part of your diabetes control. It helps to prevent the onset of complications. Exercise also helps to control your weight and keeps your heart healthy. Should you have any medical concerns, consult your family doctor before starting any exercise programme.
3) Do not smoke
Smoking worsens the narrowing of blood vessels already caused by diabetes. It reduces blood flow to many organs and leads to many serious complications.
4) Limit your alcohol intake
Alcohol interferes with your meal plan and blood glucose control, especially if you are taking insulin or medicines for your diabetes.
*Source Diabetic Society of Singapore & Health Promotion Board