Diabetes Mellitus: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, and Prevention

Diabetes Mellitus

Diabetes mellitus (DM) Commonly called diabetes is one of the most talked-about diseases in recent times. Most people refer to it as sugar disease and some say its carbohydrate disease.

Over time, the cases of diabetes mellitus have been on a rapid increase. The global prevalence in adults (18 years and above) has risen significantly.

Now, what is Diabetes Mellitus?

Diabetes mellitus is the most common disorder of the endocrine system. DM is caused by the total absence or significant deficiency of insulin, it can also be caused by the body resistance to insulin.

What then is insulin?

Insulin is a peptide hormone that lowers or regulates the glucose level of the blood. Insulin is produced by the beta cells of the pancreas (the part of the pancreas that produces insulin is called pancreatic islets). What insulin does is that it allows our body to use glucose or sugar from a carbohydrate diet that we consume. Hence it allows cells in our body to transform glucose into energy. Insulin controls the glucose level id the blood by sending signals to the muscles, liver, and fat cells to absorb glucose from the blood.

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Classification of Diabetes Mellitus

Diabetes can be classified into:

  • Primary Diabetes
  • Secondary Diabetes
  • Gestational Diabetes

The primary classification of diabetes mellitus

There are basically two (2) types of DM and they are classified as primary; they include-

  • Type 1 DM (also known as insulin-dependent or juvenile diabetes mellitus)
  • Type 2 DM (also known as non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus )

Secondary classification of diabetes mellitus

This classification involves DM associated with other disease conditions.

Conditions like

  • Acute or chronic pancreatic
  • Drug therapy such as corticosteroids
  • Other endocrine disorders involve hormones that increase plasma glucose levels such as growth hormones, thyroid hormones; etc.

Gestational diabetes mellitus

This type of DM, develop or occur during pregnancy and may sometimes disappear after delivery, but most times there are reoccurrences.

Gestational diabetes occurs because, during pregnancy, the rate at which placenta secretes hormones increases, and these hormones i.e. progesterone causes anti-insulin effects which make the available insulin less effective and this could lead to glycemia.

Gestational diabetes occurs in 2%-5% of all pregnancies. Gestational diabetes is associated with the birth of babies that are heavier than normal and stillborn babies.

Note: The range of normal birth weight for babies is between 5.5lb (2.5kg) – 10lb (4.5kg) and the average birth weight is 7.5lb (3.5kg).

Now let’s talk properly on the two (2) types of DM

Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus

Type 1 is also known as insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. Type 1 is common in persons younger than or below 25years of age. This type of diabetes occurs as a result of a significant or profound deficiency or absence of insulin secretion which is caused by the destruction of beta-islet cells of the pancreas by the autoantibodies.

Individuals suffering from type 1 diabetes mellitus will depend on synthetic insulin. Type 1 makes up 5% – 10% of diabetes cases.

Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus

This is also known as non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM). The causes of this type are of multiple factors. Predisposing factors include the following;

  • Obesity
  • Genetic factor/hereditary factors
  • Sedentary lifestyle – this means a lifestyle that involves very little or no physical activities or bodily exercise. For instance, regularly sitting or lying while carrying out most activities (like playing video games, reading, etc.). Spending almost every day at a spot with no regular exercise or physical activities.
  • Increasing age (i.e. affects middle age and older adults).

Body cells are unable to absorb glucose from extracellular fluid for two reasons;

  1. Level of insulin is inadequate- this means that insulin-mediated glucose transport mechanism in the plasma membrane is not sufficiently active.
  2. Insulin resistant- this means that insulin receptors on the cell surface are not functional and therefore even when blood glucose and insulin level is elevated, the cell cannot absorb insulin.

Type 2 diabetes mellitus makes up 90% of diabetes cases.

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Signs and symptoms

  • Polyphagia (Excessive hunger)
  • Dry itching skin
  • Fatigue/tiredness/weakness
  • Dehydration(leading to excessive thirst)
  • Blurred vision
  • Polydipsia (excessive thirst)
  • Polyuria (excessive urination)
  • Peripheral pulse is reduced
  • Weight loss
  • Acetone breath
  • Hyperglycemia
  • Hypoglycemia

Complications include;

  1. Hypoglycemic Coma

This may be as a result of

  • Overdose of insulin
  • Taking alcohol on an empty stomach or before a meal
  • Very strong exercise
  • Starvation after insulin administration
  1. Diabetic Ketoacidosis – when blood acid is produced in excess in the body
  2. Cardiovascular disorders – like blood vessel abnormalities (i.eangiopathy). Blood vessels may become larger or thickened
  • Ischaemic heart disease (angina)
  • Stroke
  • Vascular disease
  1. Neuropathy
  2. Infection
  3. Renal failure
  4. Blindness
  5. Diabetic foot ulcers


  • For type 1 diabetes, basically insulin injection is needed.
  • Dieting- Meal/Diets containing carbohydrate or sugar should be reduced
  • Mild exercise is important
  • Regular blood glucose check is necessary

Normal blood sugar levels are:

Fasting (i.e before meal) – below 100mg/dl for a minimum of eight hours.

After eating (after meal) – below 140mg/dl for a minimum of two hours.


Diabetes mellitus can be prevented by;

  • Eating a proper balanced diet
  • Checking diet and controlling the intake of carbohydrates or sugar-containing food.
  • Being aware of a family history of diabetes.
  • Health education on diabetes mellitus.
  • Monitoring or regularly checks on blood sugar level.

Eat healthily! Don’t rapid increase in body weight puts you at risk of diabetes mellitus.

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