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Diabetes is one of the leading causes of death and disability in the U.S. Family history (genetic disposition of the person), environmental factors, poor diet, obesity, medication, infections and sedentary lifestyle are some of the possible causes of diabetes mellitus, commonly known as diabetes. Practicing tight diet control helps minimize the impact of diabetes on health, but patients must commit to self care. They need to follow a specially designed diet. They can't eat what they want, whenever they want and they can never over eat. Lack of self care usually results in serious health complications.

The hormone 'insulin' is produced by the islets of Langerhans of the pancreas, which contains two types of cells, alpha and beta. The beta cells are responsible for producing insulin. The hormone insulin stimulates body cells to absorb glucose from bloodstream. It helps maintain the blood sugar level. It promotes glucose metabolism. Diabetes is a metabolic disorder as it keeps your body from properly utilizing the sugar obtained from food and is associated with long-term complications. Untreated diabetes has life-threatening consequences like blindness, memory loss, heart disease, stroke, kidney problems, amputations and nerve damage. Diabetes can also lead to loss of the right to drive. Women with diabetes may have to face several health problems during pregnancy. The disease, if not treated properly, may cause birth defects in the newborn. Poorly controlled diabetes can result in acute diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) and hyperosmolar non-ketotic coma (HONK). Very high and very low levels of blood sugar can lead to dizziness and coma.

Symptoms of Uncontrolled Diabetes
If diabetes isn't diagnosed at all or if it is poorly controlled, it can lead to
  • Elevated blood glucose level or very low blood sugar (hyperglycemia / hypoglycemia)
  • Serious fluctuations in blood sugar levels
  • Excessive production of urine
  • Extreme thirst
  • Digestive problems
  • Loss of glucose in the urine
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Neuropathy (especially peripheral nerves do not work properly) and poor blood circulation
  • Burning or shooting pain in the feet, hands, or other parts of the body
  • Disruption of various bodily systems
  • A wound may not heal, it may lead to gangrene, amputation may be required
  • Blurred vision, diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, glaucoma
  • Gum diseases
  • Fatigue
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Nausea
  • Lethargy, feeling sick
  • Dizziness and fainting
  • Dry skin
  • Incontinence, the person cannot sense when the bladder is full
  • Tingling sensation, numbness in limbs
  • Disorientation, memory loss
Neglected Diabetes and Pregnancy
Poorly controlled diabetes (or if diabetes is not diagnosed at all) can lead to serious complications during pregnancy and childbirth.
  • Babies born to mothers with diabetes do not have diabetes at the time of birth. But poorly controlled diabetes during pregnancy can affect the baby and the baby can very quickly develop low blood sugar levels after birth. Such babies need to be watched very closely until his or her body adjusts the amount of insulin it makes.
  • If a woman is not successful in controlling her diabetes with proper care, diet and medication, and if she is pregnant, she might have to face the common problems of diabetes during pregnancy. The problems might get worsened if she already has them. Abnormal blood sugar levels can even lead to a miscarriage.
  • Abnormal blood sugar may lead to high blood pressure in a diabetic woman during pregnancy; which means she will need extra visits to the doctor. High blood pressure during pregnancy, due to uncontrolled diabetes increases the risk of seizures or a stroke (a blood clot in the brain that can lead to brain damage) during labor and delivery.
  • High blood pressure during pregnancy can lead to early labor and a premature baby, leading to further complications in baby's life. Very high blood sugar leads to extra large amounts of amniotic fluid around the baby which eventually results in pre-term labor.
  • A pregnant woman who has neglected diabetes symptoms may give birth to a too large or excessively grown baby. This can cause discomfort to the woman during the last few months of pregnancy and during delivery too. Extra large babies are more likely to become obese and they are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life. They especially need to develop healthy eating habits and they need to exercise regularly as they grow up. This would reduce the chance of obesity and type 2 diabetes.
  • A woman may have type 1 or type 2 diabetes; but if it is not tightly controlled, the chances of having a baby with a birth defect are higher for her than for a woman without diabetes. Birth defects related to the brain, spine and heart or miscarriage can occur if the symptoms of diabetes are overlooked before and during pregnancy. There is also the risk of a stillborn baby.
The chances of developing diabetes rise with increasing age, stress, lack of exercise, obesity, low intake of protein and fiber and high intake of refined foods, hypertension, infection of the pancreas and high level of serum lipids, high cholesterol and high triglyceride levels.

Diabetes treatment for type 1 diabetes consists of daily injection of insulin, while type 2 diabetes is treated with sulfonylureas, alpha-glucosidase inhibitors, biguanides, thiazolidinediones, D-phenylalanine derivatives, insulin, etc. The disease has no permanent cure. Medication, lifestyle changes like diet modification, weight control, regular exercise and increased physical activity play an important role in controlling the disease. People with uncontrolled diabetes can go into 'diabetic coma' if their blood sugar is too high. Some people can also be victims of hypoglycemia (blood sugar that is too low), if they don't get enough food or they exercise too much without adjusting insulin or food. Both diabetic coma and hypoglycemia are very serious and even fatal, if not treated promptly. Diabetics need to check their blood cholesterol levels regularly. High blood cholesterol can lead to clogged arteries and can adversely affect the function of the heart. This explains why diabetes needs prompt medical attention.

Not only diabetics but healthy people also should watch blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels and blood pressure levels, closely. You should especially be aware of the early signs and symptoms of too high or too low blood sugar levels. Proper and prompt treatment helps prevent worsening of the situation. The damage caused by untreated diabetes is usually experienced by people whose blood sugar has been out of control for years. Family members / friends of the patients should know how to manage diabetic emergencies like dizziness and fainting (coma). To assist a diabetic patient, you need to know the signs and symptoms of diabetes and the associated health issues.