Diabetes mellitus is a chronic medical condition characterized by high blood sugar levels. It is caused by a defect in insulin production, insulin action, or a combination of both. Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas whose function is to allow cells to use glucose as an energy source.
Epidemiological studies reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) determined that, by the year 2021, the prevalence of diabetes in Puerto Rico’s adult population was 16.8%.
The Puerto Rico Department of Health identified that, for the year 2020, diabetes was the third cause of death on our island. It is important to know these statistics and learn more about them since the incidence and prevalence of this condition is increasing.
There are several types of diabetes, with type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes being the most common. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease where our immune system produces antibodies that destroy the cells of the pancreas, which are responsible for producing insulin, leading to insulin deficiency.
Type 2 diabetes is characterized by insulin resistance or decreased insulin production, where the loss of cell function is estimated to be 50 to 80% at the time of diagnosis.
The most common symptoms of diabetes to recognize are increased urination, increased thirst and appetite, unexpected weight loss, blurred vision, extreme fatigue, and frequent infections. If you or a family member has these symptoms, it is essential that they visit their doctors to get diagnostic tests done.
There are several blood tests that can be used to diagnose diabetes, and these usually need to be repeated. The HbA1c (glycosylated hemoglobin) test tells us the average of your blood sugar levels over the past three months, with a level of 6.5% being positive for diabetes. In the oral glucose tolerance test, glucose levels are measured before and two hours after consuming 75 grams of glucose (in a liquid drink). A glucose level ≥200mg/dL two hours after drinking the beverage is considered a diagnosis of diabetes.
Similarly, a blood glucose level of 126 mg/dL on a blood test, even after fasting for more than eight hours, is considered diagnostic for diabetes mellitus. On the other hand, if the patient presents the above symptoms of diabetes and the blood glucose level is more than 200 mg/dL in the test done at any time of the day, then it is considered to be diagnosed with diabetes and this test is not necessary to be repeated. Went.
As part of treatment for all types of diabetes, it is important to modify your lifestyle, including eating a balanced diet and getting at least 150 minutes of physical activity a week. Treatment for type 1 diabetes is through the administration of insulin, either through multiple daily injections, the use of continuous insulin infusion (insulin pump), or intravenously. There are several types of insulin that are classified according to their origin, how fast they act, and how long they stay in the body. For type 2 diabetes, both oral and injectable medications are available, which work through different mechanisms with the general goal of lowering blood sugar levels.
There are patients living with type 2 diabetes mellitus who also require insulin as part of their treatment. Drug therapy should be individualized taking into account the type of diabetes, age, and the presence of other co-occurring diseases.
Having diabetes increases your risk of complications in the short and long term. As part of preventing these complications, it is important to maintain adequate glucose levels and lead a healthy lifestyle. Close follow-up with your GP and endocrinologist should be part of the management of your condition to avoid or delay complications.