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The causes of diabetes and the difference between type-1 and type-2 diabetes


What is Diabetes?


 Diabetes is a chronic metabolic disorder resulting either from a decreased or absent production of insulin by the pancreas (type 1 diabetes) or from the inability of cells to respond to insulin (type 2 diabetes).


Before going into the details of diabetes, it can be helpful to briefly recall what insulin is and how it works. Insulin is the main hormone responsible for regulating blood sugar levels (or blood glucose levels). When blood sugar levels increase, for example after a meal, particular cells in the pancreas (called beta-cells) produce and secrete insulin into the bloodstream, through which the hormone is transported to the various cells of the body. Insulin acts on body cells by stimulating them to take in glucose from the blood, thereby restoring blood glucose levels to normal and turning off the stimulus for insulin secretion. Insulin is therefore necessary to allow cells to take in glucose, which is the main fuel they use to produce energy, thus being essential for cell survival.  


Why does it develop?


In diabetes patients the mechanism outlined above does not work properly and cells are not able to take in glucose even when blood sugar levels are extremely high. For this reason blood glucose levels rise, while at the same time cells starve for glucose. This in turn has dramatic consequences on the whole body, although heart, liver, kidneys, eyes and nerves are the most affected organs.  


Diabetes type 1 and type 2

Depending on the cause, diabetes is classified into two main types: type-1 and type-1 diabetes. However the hallmark symptoms of all types of diabetes are similar and include increased thirst and urination, weight loss in spite of increased hunger, fatigue and blurred vision. 

Type-1 diabetes, which affects mainly children and adolescents, is an autoimmune disease caused by a reaction of the immune system against the patient’s own beta-cells. This leads to the destruction of beta-cells producing insulin, and therefore to an absolute insulin deficiency. That’s why patients affected by type-1 diabetes need to take daily insulin injections to survive. In other words they are “insulin-dependent”.  


Type-2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes, accounting for about 90-95% of cases. Unlike type-1 diabetes, which is characterized by a rapid progression of symptoms, type-2 diabetes progresses slowly and symptoms appear at a later age.

The exact cause of type-2 diabetes has not been established definitely, although it is likely that different factors come into play, including overweight or obesity, physical inactivity and a family history of diabetes. In the first stages of the disease, the pancreas of type-2 diabetes patients produce enough insulin, but for unknown reasons body cells become progressively resistant or insensitive to it and can lo longer take in glucose properly.

To overcome the consequent rise of blood glucose, the pancreas starts producing and secreting more and more insulin until, over the years, this pancreas overload leads to the dysfunction of beta-cells, which become no longer able to produce enough insulin. Therefore type-2 diabetes patients become “insulin-dependent” only in the late stages of the disease.  


Diabetes and the importance of early diagnosis


It is important to stress that type-2 diabetes is a preventable condition and, when diagnosed early, is potentially reversible by simply adopting appropriate lifestyle changes. On the contrary, when diagnosed late or left untreated for years, lifestyle changes are not enough and patients have to take medications to control their sugar levels.


Because diabetes is a chronic condition that usually requires long-term, even life-long, treatment, patients should have themselves covered with appropriate health insurance cover before diabetes start. 

 If you would like to protect yourself or your family from diabetes or other medical condition that could arise you may get a comprehensive Health Insurance.


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*Always seek professional medical advise from a qualified doctor before undergoing any treatment.