This film explains how the body processes the food we eat in order to provide all your body cells with the energy they need and what happens when you have diabetes and this system doesn’t work properly.
Normal state (without diabetes)
When you eat food that contains carbohydrates, its broken down in the stomach and digestive system into glucose which is a type of sugar. We need glucose because that is what gives us energy. Carbohydrate containing foods are things like – starchy foods, sugary foods, fruit, milk and some dairy products.
This glucose then moves into the blood stream and the body detects that the blood glucose level is rising. In response to that, the pancreas which is a little gland that sits just underneath the stomach starts to release a hormone called insulin and it is insulin that helps our body get the energy from the food we eat.
The bloodstream then takes the glucose and the insulin to every cell in our body that needs it. To make this easier to understand, let’s look at muscle cells. At the muscle cells, its insulin that allows glucose to get into the cells where it can be used for energy. It’s a bit like insulin is a key unlocking the door to the cells so that the glucose can get in. that way, the blood glucose level stops to drop but the blood glucose level can be topped up at any point by the liver releasing extra glucose it has stored. The blood glucose rises again and again the pancreas introduces more insulin to move with that glucose through the blood stream, to the muscle cells, open the doors and let the glucose in.
The body functions best with the blood glucose at an optimum level. It doesn’t like it if the blood glucose rises too high. Normally there is a cycle within the body which balances out the glucose and this is achieved by the food you eat, the pancreas and the liver.
In some people the system doesn’t work properly and they develop diabetes. There are two main types of diabetes. Type 1 and Type 2.
In type 1 diabetes the body isn’t making any insulin at all. This is because of an autoimmune response, whereby the body has destroyed insulin producing cells in the pancreas. We don’t entirely know why that happens in some people and not in others.
Type 1 diabetes accounts for around ten percent of all cases. Its most often found in the under forties and it is by far the most common type of diabetes found in childhood.
In type 1 diabetes the carbohydrate containing food is broken down into glucose as normal. That glucose then moves into the blood stream. Normally the body would produce insulin to let that glucose into the cells but in type 1 diabetes, there is no insulin being produced so the glucose can’t get into the cells at all. The level of glucose in the blood rises and rises. The body tries to lower the level of glucose and tries to get rid of the glucose through the kidneys. That’s why people who have undiagnosed type 1 diabetes tend to go to the toilet a lot to pass urine. As the kidneys filter the glucose out of the blood, they also take a lot of water with it. The person with diabetes will get very thirsty.
The urine contains a lot of glucose that creates an environment where it’s quite easy for bacteria to thrive so it’s also quite common to get thrush or genital itching. In the same way, the blood contains a high level of glucose as well so more bacteria than usual will tend to breed in flesh wounds making them slow to heal.
Glucose can also build up in the lens front of the eye causing the liquid in the lens to become cloudy. That can mean that some people with undiagnosed type 1 diabetes can have blurred vision. The glucose can’t get into the cells to be used for energy, somebody who has got undiagnosed type 1 diabetes is going to start feeling very tired, lethargic and unable to go about their normal daily routine. The body still needs an energy source in order to work properly. So what it does is it starts to break down its fat stores and that can lead to weight loss.
So the main symptoms of type 1 diabetes is – going to the toilet a lot, thirst, thrush or genital itching, slow healing of wounds, blurred vision, tiredness and weight loss.
These symptoms generally happen quite quickly, often over a few weeks and can be reversed once the diabetes is treated with insulin.
Type 2 diabetes accounts for about 90% of all cases in the population. It is most common in the over forty age group in the white population and in the over 25 age group in the south Asian population.
Type 2 diabetes is a little more complex because it has slightly more processes at work. Either the body is producing quite enough insulin or the insulin it is producing isn’t working properly. That can be due to being overweight because the build-up of fat can stop insulin doing its job properly. It can also happen in people with healthy weight.
In type 2 diabetes, the carbohydrate containing food is broken down into glucose in the stomach and digestive system is normal, that glucose then moves into the blood stream. The pancreas starts to produce insulin which moves with the glucose through the blood stream to all the body cells which need glucose energy. However, the glucose can’t always get into the cells because the locks to the cell doors have become filled up with fat deposits that means that the insulin can’t open the cell doors properly. So the level of glucose in the blood continues to rise. In response to this, the pancreas produces even more insulin so the blood glucose levels continue to rise and the insulin levels continue to rise.
This situation is further complicated by the cells which are desperate for energy, sending out emergency signals to the liver to release stored glucose. The blood glucose level goes up and up and the pancreas produces more and more insulin until it can’t cope anymore and eventually it can wear out.
As with type 1 diabetes, the symptoms of type 2 diabetes, are going to the toilet a lot, thirst, thrush or genital itching, slow healing of wounds, blurred vision, tiredness and weight loss in some people.
The symptoms of type 2 diabetes, come along very slowly and some people don’t have any symptoms at all. So for that reason, people can live with type 2 diabetes for upto 10 years before they realize that they have it.
Type 2 diabetes comes in a different number of ways. Initially it may be sufficient to make changes to the food you are eating, take extra physical activity or loose any weight that may be appropriate. Type 2 diabetes is a progressive condition and most people will need some form of medication to treat it.E220 – Explaining Symptoms of Type 1 and Type 2 – www.diabetic.today