Diabetes Mellitus - Symptoms, Risks and Causes

21 Dec 2022

In the month dedicated to the awareness of diabetes mellitus and its corresponding types, we talked to Prof. Dr. Radka Savova, an endocrinologist with many years of experience, who shared all of the most important things about diabetic conditions.

Prof. Dr. Radka Savova is an endocrinologist and pediatrician, a specialist in the diagnosis and treatment of children’s diseases, children’s endocrinology and metabolism, diabetes mellitus, as well as growth and development problems. Prof. Savova works in the children’s hospital SBAL “Prof. Dr. Ivan Mitev” in Sofia and is a member of the Medical Board of Sirma Medical Systems.

What is Diabetes?

Explained most understandably, it is known by the increased amount of glucose in the blood due to the inability of the body to absorb it properly. This happens mainly due to two distinct reasons. The first one is the inability of the body to produce insulin (the hormone needed to absorb sugar from the blood), which leads to the development of type 1 diabetes. The second reason is the insufficient production of insulin by the pancreas, which in turn leads to insufficient processing of glucose from the blood - also known as type 2 diabetes.

Prof. Savova shared that there is also gestational diabetes, which occurs during pregnancy in some women. In most cases, it disappears when she gives birth. Another type is called prediabetes - a dangerous condition that suggests that glucose processing is not happening completely correctly. In many cases, prediabetes causes the development of type 2 diabetes.

What Symptoms Should We Watch Out For?

When diabetes mellitus is not controlled (blood sugar levels go too high or too low) - this is a predisposition to life-threatening conditions such as hypo- or hyperglycemia. With them, a person may get into unconsciousness and even a diabetic coma. In such situations, urgent medical attention is needed, because the outcome is known to be lethal. It is important to be well aware of too-high or too-low blood sugar symptoms:

  • drowsiness
  • dizziness
  • profuse sweating
  • strong palpitations
  • blurred vision
  • slurred speech
  • headache
  • strong thirst

According to the endocrinologist, it is extremely important to monitor our blood sugar levels regularly when living with diabetes and to act accordingly to the results we have. If blood glucose is regularly out of the desired range, it can lead to the development of chronic conditions such as nephropathy (kidney damage leading to kidney failure), retinopathy (retinal damage leading to blindness), neuropathy (nerve damage) and others.

Prevention and Treatment of Diabetes

Assoc. Savova noted that a proper and varied diet, as well as regular exercise, are the two key factors for maintaining balance when living with diabetes. This also applies as a preventive measure for people who do not have the disease, but fear that they may develop it at a certain stage of their lives. Excessive intake of fatty foods, meat, alcohol, salt and sugar are all risk factors for the development of not only diabetes but also other diseases such as hypertension, atherosclerosis, obesity, etc.

Having the right habits, including regular exercise, are the key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. This is especially important for parents of young children, regardless of whether they have diabetes or not, advises Prof. Savova. She shares that her many years of experience as a pediatrician indicate that the environment at home plays a very important role in adherence to the prescribed therapy and diet for a child diagnosed with diabetes.

General Recommendations from an Endocrinologist

During the holiday season and with an abundance of any kind of meals, the consumption of heavy and fatty foods is increasingly difficult to avoid. This does not mean that we cannot enjoy traditional dishes for the holidays, but we should not forget that the important thing here is portioning. The excessive intake of any food is not recommended by specialists because it reflects on the body in a negative way. Therefore, it is important to keep your diet as balanced as possible, even during the holidays.

A nutritious diet combined with physical activity, drinking plenty of fluids and regularly monitoring blood sugar levels are the three most important steps any diabetic patient should follow, the endocrinologist added.

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