What is diabetes?

HomePrediabetesWhat is diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic disease characterised by a permanently high level of glucose in the blood (hyperglycaemia).

In most cases it is a disease requiring lifelong medical treatment. Several types of diabetes exist and they develop differently: type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes.

According to the European Diabetes Study Center (CEED), diabetes affects around 4.5 million people in France alone.

Diabetes: mechanism of the disease

Naturally, our blood glucose levels increase at the end of each meal. This is why the pancreas secretes a hormone called insulin. Insulin promotes the assimilation of the sugar in our blood by cells in our muscles and organs. This glucose then turns into energy. Mechanically, our blood glucose level, called glycaemia, reduces.

« 425 million people have been diagnosed with diabetes worldwide »
– www.idf.org : Diabetes facts & figures

Diabetes is a chronic dysfunction of our bodieswhen faced with high blood sugar (hyperglycaemia). Either the disease starts as a result of a problem in the pancreas or the body reacts abnormally to insulin. Either way, glucose builds up in the blood and causes health complications.

Diabetes is diagnosed when the fasting blood sugar level rises to 1.26 g or more per litre of blood, checked twice. Two other indicators can characterise diabetes:

  • The percentage of glycated haemoglobin, which measures blood sugar balance over a period of two to three months
  • A glucose tolerance test which measures the blood sugar level in the body after taking glucose

Avoiding certain risk factors can help to prevent the disease or reduce it. A diet that is too high in fat, sedentary lifestyles, being overweight and smoking all play an active role in the development of diabetes.

The three main types of diabetes

Type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes, or what was known as juvenile diabetes, refers to an autoimmune disease that develops at a young age. The diagnosis is frequently made when the patient is still a child. The cells in the pancreas that produce the hormone insulin are eliminated from the body through an inappropriate immune response. Unable to produce insulin to regulate blood sugar levels, the patient is therefore insulin dependent. Often inherited, this type of diabetes remains somewhat mysterious and represents 6% of diabetic patients.

Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes develops slowly. It sneaks up silently on people over the course of years, usually showing up after the age of 40. This version of the disease accounts for the vast majority of diabetics. In France, 90% of diabetics have type 2 diabetes. Patients are often overweight or obese or are subject to frequent weight gain. Hence its association with being ‘fat’. The main causes of the disease are a diet that contains too much glucose and a lack of physical activity.

Two distinct dysfunctions explain the onset of type 2 diabetes. On the one hand, there is resistance in the body to insulin’s action. On the other, there is an abnormality in the secretion of insulin by the pancreas. The pancreas becomes exhausted and can no longer produce the hormone in sufficient quantities.

Type 2 diabetes follows a period of prediabetes, during which the patient can still avoid the disease.

Gestational diabetes

Finally, gestational diabetes can occur during pregnancy. After childbirth, blood sugar levels often return to normal, though sometimes diabetes can persist. Subsequently, women who haveexperienced gestational diabetes are more likely to be in a situation of prediabetes.

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