Losing my grandfather to diabetes after 12 years of struggling with the disease has led me to realise the enormity of this ailment. The disease sadly has been passed on to my father and probably to me as well, only time will tell. This isn’t just my story it is something that millions of people out there will relate to. According to the Healthy Ireland survey, 854,165 adults over 40 in the Republic of Ireland are at increased risk of developing (or have) Type 2 diabetes. The International Diabetes Federation’s (2012) estimates that by 2030 there will be 278,850 people with the condition (prevalence of 7.5% in the population). Being a doctor, I know this disease inside out and one thing that I can say for sure is that it’s the one that can be prevented and/or prolonged.
The term ‘diabetes’ means excessive urination and the word ‘mellitus’ means honey. Diabetes mellitus is a lifelong condition caused by a lack, or insufficiency of insulin. Insulin is a hormone – a substance of vital importance that is made by your pancreas. Insulin acts like a key to open the doors into your cells, letting sugar (glucose) in. In diabetes, the pancreas makes too little insulin to enable all the sugar in your blood to get into your muscle and other cells to produce energy. If sugar can’t get into the cells to be used, it builds up in the bloodstream. Therefore, diabetes is characterized by high blood sugar (glucose) levels.
On the other hand, Prediabetes is a condition in which blood glucose or A1C levels—which reflect average blood glucose levels—are higher than normal but not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes. People with prediabetes are at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes and CVD, which can lead to heart attack or stroke. Prediabetes usually occurs in people who already have insulin resistance. Although insulin resistance alone does not cause type 2 diabetes, it often sets the stage for the disease by placing a high demand on the insulin-producing beta cells. In prediabetes, the beta cells can no longer produce enough insulin to overcome insulin resistance, causing blood glucose levels to rise above the normal range.
You might have prediabetes for years without even knowing it because almost all patients are asymptomatic. Something that I and all the people who have a family history of DM should do is health screening before it’s too late and a full-blown diagnosis is made. Testing for prediabetes or diabetes can be done in a number of ways. A fasting blood sugar (FBS) is easy and the cheapest way. An oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) is more expensive and time-consuming. Screening can also be done with a HbA1c test. For most people, any of these tests will work, but they should be confirmed with a second test. The way we do screening in our clinic is different from any of the above-mentioned methods and our assessment gives live results.
After we do the 2 minutes test with you we will have a general picture of your health which obviously also includes screening for prediabetes. Once we know which areas to work on (diabetes related) we can advise you several ways to help control and/or prevent the disease before its too late and becomes very hard to handle. We often do retests to see the progress and because the patients can see live results and how their hard work is paying off gets them motivated more than ever.
Whichever route you choose I can’t stress enough on the importance of screening for the disease. Why suffer through something that can be prevented. Why suffer through blurred vision, frequent urination, increased thirst and hunger (even though you are eating), extreme fatigue and those slow healing ulcers which can even lead to amputation of limbs. Diabetes is often called a silent killer because it attacks organ by organ until the body just surrenders and the disease becomes fatal. Fortunately, there is so much we can do to prevent the suffering of this unwanted disease.