What is diabetes? Dr Shubham Pant DeQodes. (Photo: The Quint)
| 3 min read

Diabetes DeQoded: A Crash Course in This Morbid Disease

If you are an Indian, it is impossible that you don’t know someone who has diabetes. Diabetes affects more than 382 million people worldwide. That figure is said to double by 2030.

To put that in perspective, in India, 1 in 20 people have diabetes and 1 in 15 are on the verge of getting the disease.

Diabetes takes more lives annually than AIDS and breast cancer combined and is the leading cause of heart and kidney failure, amputation and blindness.

But here’s the thing, more than a quarter of those who have diabetes in India are not even aware of their condition and that is why it is extremely important to understand the disease. Dr Shubham Pant decodes this morbid disease for you.

Well, it all starts with food. Our body is a lot like cars, they need fuel to run. Cars run on petrol and your cells use a simple sugar called glucose.

When you eat, your body breaks down the food into components; a part of that is glucose. (Photo: The Quint)
When you eat, your body breaks down the food into components; a part of that is glucose. (Photo: The Quint)

So when you eat, your body breaks down the food into components; a part of that is glucose. Glucose is our body’s key source of energy – it’s a sugar but not the kind which we put in our chai or coffee. That is sucrose.

Turning food into glucose is not the final step. It has to get to the cells for it to be used as energy. Cells are dependent on glucose to function. You are able to stand, talk, move your hands because of the body’s simple ability to convert human food into cell food, glucose. While your body digests food, your pancreas releases a hormone called insulin. Insulin meets glucose in the small intestines. Once they are in the bloodstream, your heart pumps it to the rest of the body.

So what does diabetes have to do with all this?

There are two types of diabetes: Type I and Type II (Photo: The Quint)
There are two types of diabetes: Type I and Type II (Photo: The Quint)

There are two types of diabetes – Type I and Type II.

In Type I diabetes, the body makes little or no insulin because the cells in the pancreas that make insulin are attacked by the body’s own immune system. It is usually diagnosed in children and young adults.

Type I is an autoimmune disorder, some people are born with it and patients usually have to give themselves insulin shots.

90% of adults who have diabetes have Type II. In this, either the body doesn’t produce enough insulin or the cells don’t listen to insulin or both. So without insulin, the glucose has nowhere to go – it just hangs out there in the bloodstream until it’s passed in the urine.

Basically, too much glucose too often can damage the cells. Only 40% Type II patients have to take insulin.

The main treatment is adjusting diet and exercising regularly BUT you don’t get Type II diabetes by eating too much candy. The combined calorific count of your meals matter.

How Type II Diabetes works. (Photo: The Quint)
How Type II Diabetes works. (Photo: The Quint)

Scientists are trying to find the causes and cures of all types of diabetes. Stress, sedentary lifestyle, genetic factors, obesity are all known causes of Type II.

If left unchecked, high blood sugar can cause severe damage. Blindness, impotence, infections, nerve damage, hypertension, kidney damage, stroke, hearing loss, swollen limbs, ulcers and gangrene are all side-effects of poorly managed blood sugars.

You didn’t choose to get diabetes but you surely have a choice in how you manage it. In the next video, we’ll break that down for you.

Anchor: Dr Shubham Pant

Script: Nikita Mishra

Producer: Esha Paul

Video Editor: Hitesh Singh