Diabetes, also known as diabetes mellitus, is a metabolic disease which impairs the body’s ability to process blood glucose, also known as blood sugar. Glucose is essential to your health as it is the source of energy for the cells that make up the tissues and muscles. It is also the main fuel source for your brain. Left untreated, high blood sugar levels may damage your nerves, eyes, kidneys and other organs.

There are different types of diabetes, namely:

  • Type 1 diabetes
    This is an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks and damages the cells in the pancreas.
  • Type 2 diabetes
    This is when your body is insulin resistant which results in blood sugar build up.
  • Prediabetes
    This occurs when your glucose level is higher than it should be but isn't that high to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes.
  • Gestational diabetes
    This type of diabetes occurs during pregnancy and is caused by insulin-blocking hormones that are produced by the placenta.

Diabetes causes symptoms such as increased hunger and thirst, weight loss, frequent urination, blurry vision and extreme fatigue. These symptoms may range from being mild, which may make it hard to be noticed at first, to being severe.

How is diabetes mellitus diagnosed?

Due to the slow onset of symptoms of type 2 diabetes, prediabetes and gestational diabetes, screening guidelines may be recommended. People with a body mass index more than 25, older than 45 years, women who have gestational diabetes and people with prediabetes, must undergo screening.

To diagnose diabetes, Dr du Plooy may conduct the following tests:

  • Glycated haemoglobin (A1C) test
    This blood test measures the amount of glucose attached to the oxygen-carrying protein in the red blood cells, called haemoglobin.
  • Blood sugar tests
    These are blood tests taken either at random times or after an overnight fast, to check glucose levels.
  • Oral glucose tolerance test
    These blood tests are taken after an overnight fast to measure the glucose levels. After taking the test, you may be required to drink a sugary liquid; then the glucose levels will be checked periodically for the next 2 hours.
How is diabetes treated?

Diabetes treatment requires keeping close watch of your glucose levels which may be accompanied by a combination of diabetes drugs, exercise and diet. Dr Niel du Plooy may also recommend the following insulin therapy, which involves insulin being given in the form of injections or with an insulin pump, depending on your needs. To treat type 2 diabetes, glucagon-like peptide 1 receptor agonists (GLP 1-RA) and dipeptidyl peptidase receptor antagonists (DPP 4-RA).

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