Blood sugar problems

By Brandie Umar, Executive Director of ContentLast modified: October 03, 2011


350 million people worldwide suffer from diabetes, with an estimated 50 million more undiagnosed. Diabetes is a medical condition that prevents the body from producing or responding to the hormone insulin. Insulin is produced by the pancreas after eating and helps send the glucose from food to our blood and cells. Without enough insulin, the body is unable to process glucose efficiently.  Blood sugar provides the body with energy to keep muscles and tissue healthy. Low levels of insulin cause blood sugar to build up and this excess glucose in the bloodstream causes many health problems. 


Type 1 and type 2 diabetes are chronic, lifelong diseases. There is no cure for diabetes but medication and diet can be used to control the symptoms and help the body regulate and respond to insulin more efficiently. Gestational diabetes that occurs during pregnancy and pre-diabetes are diabetic conditions that are often reversible.



Pre-diabetes means you have not yet developed type 1 or type 2 diabetes but raised blood sugar levels indicate that the risk of developing diabetes is increased. Pre-diabetes is one of the most undiagnosed conditions in the world and in the United States, pre-diabetes is classed as an epidemic. People who do not control blood glucose levels when diagnosed with pre-diabetes go on to develop type 2 diabetes which causes severe health complications. Pre-diabetes can be reversed and blood glucose levels can return to normal by following a low sodium diet, increasing the amount of exercise and loosing weight.


Gestational diabetes 

During pregnancy, the hormones produced can cause a woman's body to become resistant to insulin, raising blood sugar levels. If blood glucose is not controlled when gestational diabetes is diagnosed, the risk of developing type 2 diabetes post-pregnancy is increased. Children born to women with high blood sugar levels during pregnancy are more prone to childhood diabetes with an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes as they enter adulthood. Gestational diabetes can usually be controlled with diet or by insulin treatment. 


Type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is caused by an autoimmune disease. Autoimmune diseases are caused by the body attacking its own cells. Type 1 diabetes occurs when when the body reacts against the insulin the pancreas produces. Without insulin, the glucose produced leaves the body through the urine but also builds up in the blood causing dangerously high blood sugar levels. Type 1 diabetes is a chronic disease that can lead to coma and can be fatal if not controlled. Type 1 diabetes is regulated and treated with insulin replacement therapy - normally controlled by the patient themselves with regular insulin injections. Occasionally, treatment to reverse the high blood glucose caused by diabetes can lower the blood glucose levels too much. When blood glucose falls dangerously low, the patient is at risk of hypoglycemia which can cause a diabetic coma.  


Type 2 diabetes

Unlike type 1 diabetes, where the insulin produced is destroyed by the body, type 2 diabetes is caused by the body ignoring or not responding to the insulin produced. Type 2 diabetes, known as non-insulin dependant diabetes, is the most commonly diagnosed diabetes mellitus and affects 90% of diabetics. when the body is resistant to insulin, glucose builds up in the blood stream instead of being diverted to cells to provide energy. Type 2 diabetes is generally controlled by diet and in severe cases, insulin therapy. If type 2 diabetes is not controlled, the patient can fall into a diabetic coma caused by the body entering shock and severe dehydration.


Who gets diabetes?

Anybody can develop diabetes and diabetes affects children, men and women .

Those most at risk of developing type 1 diabetes are people with a family history of diabetic disease. Type 1 diabetes can also develop following a serious viral infection such as measles or from injury to the pancreas. 

The risk of developing type 2 diabetes is also increased if a family member has diabetes, however there are many other factors that can trigger diabetes. Obesity is a major contributory factor to type 2 diabetes developing as increased fat levels limit the body's ability to respond to insulin.Lack of exercise can also contribute to non-insulin dependent diabetes developing as the body uses less glucose as energy and the glucose can build up in the blood. Women who suffer from gestational diabetes, or children born to women who had gestational diabetes while pregnant are more likely to develop diabetes. Low birth weight, smoking and high blood pressure are also linked to type 2 diabetes.


Although the reason is unknown, certain ethnic groups are more prone to diabetes - people of Hispanic, African-American, Asian-American and America-Indian ethnicity are at an increased risk of diabetes.




What health problems does diabetes cause?

When blood sugar is not regulated properly, the cells do not receive enough glucose which is vital for energy. As a result, diabetes can cause complications in many other parts of the body:


Heart - Diabetics are at increased risk of heart disease and stroke.

Eyes - Diabetes increases the chance of developing cataracts, is a leading cause of diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma

Kidneys - Untreated/controlled diabetes can lead to kidney failure.

Dental problems - Diabetics often suffer with dental problems, especially gum disease. 

Foot problems - Poor blood supply in the feet is a common complication of diabetes.



Diabetes and vision problems

Diabetes is a progressive condition that overtime damages not only the overall health of your body but can cause eye sight problems and even blindness.

The retina is the tissue at the back of the eye and contains tens of tiny blood vessels. In front of the retina is the lens, the lens focuses light that enters the eye back to the retina. The retina acts almost like a camera film - when the light sent for the lens hits the retina, the retina send images back to the brain where the images are processed.   

Diabetes mellitus damages the lens and the retina over time.

Symptoms of diabetes

Diabetes mellitus affects more than 10% of the global population with many more undiagnosed cases. Prediabetes, gestational diabetes, type 1 and type 2 diabetes all have similar symptoms: Increased need to urinate, Fatigue, Increased/constant thirst, Weight loss and increased appetite, Blurred vision, Slow healing cuts, Yeast infections/Skin infections

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