What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic disease, which can be inherited or developed, it is a condition in which the production of insulin is inhibited. Diabetes causes a person’s blood sugar level to become too high1.
Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas to help the body use glucose for energy. When there is not enough of this, the body is unable to regulate blood sugar levels. This can cause a person to become hyperglycaemic which can cause serious health problems if sustained over a long period of time2.
There are two main types of diabetes:
- Type 1 refers to the form of diabetes in which the body’s own immune system attacks the cells that produce insulin leaving the body unable to make insulin at all3.
- Type 2 diabetes is far more common than Type 1, and refers to a condition where the body has become resistant to insulin or no longer produces enough to effectively control the body’s blood sugar.
Risk factors and symptoms
There are a number of factors that contribute to a person’s risk of developing diabetes, for example; family history, weight and level of physical activity should all be considered when determining whether a person maybe at risk. To find out more about your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes visit the Diabetes UK risk calculator.
The risk of a person developing Type 2 diabetes increases with age, and if a member of your immediate family is diabetic you are six times more likely to develop it yourself4.
The diagnosis of diabetes is made primarily by the detection of hyperglycemia. There are many tools, however, in the arsenal of diabetes-related diagnostic tests. Diabetes-related assays are performed for various reasons on many different types of patients:
- Newly diagnosed diabetics - To help determine if they have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes when the clinical indications are inconclusive.
- Type 2 diabetics - To monitor and adjust therapies.
- All diabetics - To test for diabetic nephropathy by measuring their urinary albumin levels.
- Postmenopausal women - Studies indicate that this group may have an increased risk for cardiac mortality if they have an elevated urinary albumin level.
- Women diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome - This syndrome affects 6 to 10 percent of all women, with 50 percent having insulin resistance. These women are at high-risk for developing Type 2 diabetes. An abnormally elevated insulin level with hyperglycemia could indicate insulin resistance.
How common is diabetes
More than 415 million people around the world are living with diabetes today: 2.85 million of those are adults within Great Britain. This means 1 in every 16 people in the UK will suffer with the disease - with the condition 37% of those being unaware they have it at all.
With a global rise in obesity and unhealthy lifestyle, this number is expected to rise to 1 in every 10 people by 20405,6.
Diabetes has the potential to cause serious complications in the long-term and can lead to a number of chronic conditions effecting the heart, eyes and kidneys. This is a result of consistently high blood sugar levels causing damage to blood vessels and affecting their ability to function properly. This also reduces the functionality of nerves and can cause loss of sensation in parts of the body7. The risk of developing these complications can be associated with a high HbA1c level.
Monitoring the condition
Those diagnosed with diabetes are encouraged to monitor their condition on a regular basis. By measuring haemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), doctors can gauge your average blood sugar levels from the last 2-3 months and thereby provide a more tailored treatment plan. HbA1c measurement can also show whether treatment plans and lifestyle choices have been effective.
To find out more about HbA1c see: HbA1c and Diabetes: What’s the connection?
Siemens Healthineers offers a wide range of diabetes-related assays that aid in the differentiation of Type 1 from Type 2 diabetes, help to monitor glycaemic control, and allow doctors to follow the progression of the disease through HbA1c monitoring.
Find out more about monitoring glycaemic control and diabetes complications using the DCA Vantage Analyser.
Type 1 diabetes
- Formerly called “insulin-dependent” or “juvenile-onset” diabetes
- An autoimmune disease that causes destruction of pancreatic beta cells, which are responsible for synthesizing and secreting insulin
- Accounts for 5 to 10 percent of all diabetics
Type 2 diabetes
- Formerly called “non-insulin-dependent” or “adult-onset” diabetes
- Caused by insulin resistance or inadequate insulin secretion
- Accounts for 90 to 95 percent of diabetes in developed countries
- Patients with Impaired Glucose Tolerance and Impaired Fasting Glucose
- Individuals have blood glucose levels higher than normal but not high enough to be classified as diabetes
- People with pre-diabetes have an increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke8