Diabetes mellitus (“diabetes”) and hypertension, which commonly coexist, are global public health issues contributing to an enormous burden of cardiovascular disease, chronic kidney disease, and premature mortality and disability. The presence of both conditions has an amplifying effect on risk for microvascular and macrovascular complications.1 The prevalence of diabetes is rising worldwide (Fig. 37.1). Both diabetes and hypertension disproportionately affect people in middle and low-income countries, and an estimated 70% of all cases of diabetes are found in these countries.2,3 In the United States alone, the total costs of care for diabetes and hypertension in the years 2012 and 2011 were 245 and 46 billion dollars, respectively.4,5 Therefore, there is a great potential for meaningful health and economic gains attached to prevention, detection, and intervention for diabetes and hypertension.
There are a number of medications and other health problems that can predispose to diabetes. Some of the medications include: glucocorticoids, thiazides, beta blockers, atypical antipsychotics, and statins. Those who have previously had gestational diabetes are at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Other health problems that are associated include: acromegaly, Cushing's syndrome, hyperthyroidism, pheochromocytoma, and certain cancers such as glucagonomas. Testosterone deficiency is also associated with type 2 diabetes.
Doctors can also measure the level of a protein, hemoglobin A1C (also called glycosylated or glycolated hemoglobin), in the blood. Hemoglobin is the red, oxygen-carrying substance in red blood cells. When blood is exposed to high blood glucose levels over a period of time, glucose attaches to the hemoglobin and forms glycosylated hemoglobin. The hemoglobin A1C level (reported as the percentage of hemoglobin that is A1C) reflects long-term trends in blood glucose levels rather than rapid changes.
Learning about the disease and actively participating in the treatment is important, since complications are far less common and less severe in people who have well-managed blood sugar levels. The goal of treatment is an HbA1C level of 6.5%, but should not be lower than that, and may be set higher. Attention is also paid to other health problems that may accelerate the negative effects of diabetes. These include smoking, elevated cholesterol levels, obesity, high blood pressure, and lack of regular exercise. Specialized footwear is widely used to reduce the risk of ulceration, or re-ulceration, in at-risk diabetic feet. Evidence for the efficacy of this remains equivocal, however.
Rates of type 2 diabetes have increased markedly since 1960 in parallel with obesity. As of 2015 there were approximately 392 million people diagnosed with the disease compared to around 30 million in 1985. Typically it begins in middle or older age, although rates of type 2 diabetes are increasing in young people. Type 2 diabetes is associated with a ten-year-shorter life expectancy. Diabetes was one of the first diseases described. The importance of insulin in the disease was determined in the 1920s.
It is also important to note that currently one third of those who have IGT are in the productive age between 20-39 yr and, therefore, are likely to spend many years at high risk of developing diabetes and/or complications of diabetes1. Some persons with prediabetes experience reactive hypoglycaemia 2-3 hours after a meal. This is a sign of impaired insulin metabolism indicative of impending occurrence of diabetes. Therefore, periodic medical check-up in people with such signs or risk factors for diabetes would reduce the hazards involved in having undiagnosed diabetes. It would help improve the health status of a large number of people who otherwise would be silent sufferers from the metabolic aberrations associated with diabetes.
The food that people eat provides the body with glucose, which is used by the cells as a source of energy. If insulin isn't available or doesn't work correctly to move glucose from the blood into cells, glucose will stay in the blood. High blood glucose levels are toxic, and cells that don't get glucose are lacking the fuel they need to function properly.
Diabetes is one of the first diseases described with an Egyptian manuscript from c. 1500 BCE mentioning "too great emptying of the urine." The first described cases are believed to be of type 1 diabetes. Indian physicians around the same time identified the disease and classified it as madhumeha or honey urine noting that the urine would attract ants. The term "diabetes" or "to pass through" was first used in 230 BCE by the Greek Apollonius Of Memphis. The disease was rare during the time of the Roman empire with Galen commenting that he had only seen two cases during his career.
Beta cells are vulnerable to more than just bad genes, which may explain the associations between type 2 diabetes and environmental factors that aren't related to how much fat a body has or where it is stored. Beta cells carry vitamin D receptors on their surface, and people with vitamin D deficiency are at increased risk for type 2. Plus, several studies have shown that people with higher levels of toxic substances in their blood—such as from the PCBs found in fish fat—are at increased risk of type 2 diabetes, though a cause-and-effect relationship hasn't been proved. (Toxic substances and vitamin D have also been implicated in type 1 diabetes, but the disease mechanism may be unrelated to what's going on in type 2.)
Diabetic foot disease, due to changes in blood vessels and nerves, often leads to ulceration and subsequent limb amputation. It is one of the most costly complications of diabetes, especially in communities with inadequate footwear. It results from both vascular and neurological disease processes. Diabetes is the most common cause of non-traumatic amputation of the lower limb, which may be prevented by regular inspection and good care of the foot.
The above tips are important for you. But it's also crucial to allow yourself time to cope with the diagnosis and commit to making lifestyle changes that will benefit you forever. The good news is the diabetes is a manageable disease; the tough part is that you must think about it daily. Consider finding support—someone that you can talk to about your struggles—be that a friend, another person with diabetes, or a loved one. This may seem trivial, but it truly can help you take control of diabetes so that it doesn't control you. Some next steps that may help you to get on the right track at this early stage in your journey:
Nerve damage (neuropathy). Excess sugar can injure the walls of the tiny blood vessels (capillaries) that nourish your nerves, especially in the legs. This can cause tingling, numbness, burning or pain that usually begins at the tips of the toes or fingers and gradually spreads upward. Poorly controlled blood sugar can eventually cause you to lose all sense of feeling in the affected limbs. Damage to the nerves that control digestion can cause problems with nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation. For men, erectile dysfunction may be an issue.
Type 2 diabetes is a preventable disease that affects more than 9 percent of the U.S. population, or about 29 million people. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than a quarter — some 8 million people — remain undiagnosed. With complications including nerve damage, kidney damage, poor blood circulation, and even death, it’s important for us all to know the early signs of type 2 diabetes.