Diabetes mellitus: causes and symptoms

 Diabetes mellitus: causes and symptoms

There are around seven million people in Germany who have been diagnosed with diabetes mellitus - but estimates assume that there are significantly more people who are still unrecognized. The more people know about the danger of diabetes, the causes and the symptoms, the sooner they can be recognized and countermeasures taken. In the following, we will introduce you to the causes and signs of the metabolic disease and explain which examinations are required for diagnosis and how treatment is carried out.

Definition: what is diabetes?

When people talk about diabetes, they usually refer to diabetes mellitus. Diabetes mellitus is a chronic disorder of the sugar metabolism. This is where the colloquial term "diabetes" comes from.

There are different forms of diabetes mellitus that have different causes and symptoms and that require different treatments. The most common forms are type 1 and type 2 diabetes, with type 2 diabetes accounting for around 90 to 95 percent of cases. The hormone insulin plays an important role in both diseases.

This is how insulin affects blood sugar levels

Sugar belongs to the group of carbohydrates and is an important supplier of energy. We do not only consume sugar through sweets, but above all in the form of starch, for example in cereals or potatoes. In the course of digestion, our body breaks down the carbohydrates and grape sugar (glucose) is produced. This increases the blood sugar level, i.e. the amount of sugar in the blood.

In order for this sugar to get from the blood into the body cells, where the energy is needed, the body's own hormone insulin is required. When the blood sugar concentration rises, insulin is released into the blood from certain cells in the pancreas (called Langerhans cells), which then helps to transport the sugar into the cells and thereby lower the blood sugar level.

However, if the pancreas no longer produces enough insulin, or if the cells no longer respond properly to the insulin, then the glucose can no longer travel from the blood to the cells. While the organs "starve" because no sugar gets into them, the sugar concentration in the blood is very high.

Some of the excess sugar is excreted in the urine. This causes the urine to take on a sweet taste - which was actually used in the past to diagnose diabetes. Hence the name of the disease comes from: Diabetes mellitus means something like "honey-sweet flow".

Types and causes of diabetes

Diabetes mellitus can have many different causes. The following forms of diabetes are distinguished, depending on the cause:

In type 1 diabetes, the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas (beta cells) are usually destroyed by an immune process (i.e. an autoimmune disease) in childhood or adolescence - this early onset is also called juvenile diabetes. In this form of diabetes, there is a so-called absolute insulin deficiency.

Type 2 diabetes is usually the result of being overweight, sedentary and unhealthy eating. This form gradually develops from a resulting insulin resistance and is also called adult diabetes in a trivial way. However, that shouldn't hide the fact that younger adults can develop this form of diabetes too.

The unofficial name of type 3 diabetes covers a very diverse group of different and very rare forms of diabetes. The causes are:

genetic defects in the beta cells that hinder the release of insulin (MODY forms)

genetic defects in the action of insulin (e.g. Rabson-Mendenhall syndrome)

Pancreatic disorders (for example, chronic pancreatitis or cystic fibrosis)

hormonal disorders (such as Cushing's syndrome or acromegaly)

Medicines or chemicals (for example, corticosteroids or ingested thyroid hormones)

Infections (such as cytomegaly)

unusual forms of immune-mediated diabetes (such as insulin autoimmune syndrome)

other genetic causes (for example Wolfram syndrome or Down syndrome)

Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that - as its name suggests - is diagnosed for the first time during pregnancy, regardless of whether the disease was previously undetected. This is mostly type 1 or type 2 diabetes.

LADA (latent autoimmune diabetes in adults) is a special form of type 1 diabetes that occurs after a delay and only occurs in adults. It is often mistaken for type 2 diabetes in the early stages and only gradually develops the typical characteristics of type 1 diabetes.

What causes type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of slide

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