Today, the 14th of November 2009 is world diabetes day. The day marks the birthday of Frederick Banting who was part responsible for discovering Insulin, the hormone that regulates the blood glucose levels in the body. All over the world organisations and country health departments are promoting the awareness of diabetes and providing screening facilities for people to test their blood glucose levels and have their eyes examined.

Diabetes mellitus is one of the number one causes of blindness in the world due to damage caused to the retina of the eye, a condition called Diabetic Retinopathy. Fortunately, the damage diabetes caused to the body can be minimalised if it is diagnosed early and properly controlled thereafter.

Diabetes can be divided into a number of categories:

Pre-Diabetes

This is a stage where your blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be classified as a ‘full blown’ diabetic. It should be taken seriously however as this is a clear warning that your body is not coping well with controlling your blood glucose levels. The best thing you can do is to monitor your blood glucose levels regularly and make a committed change to your diet.

Gestational Diabetes

A small percentage of woman who don’t have diabetes can develop high blood glucose levels during pregnancy. Although not a given these woman can develop diabetes later in life.

Type 1 Diabetes

For various reasons the beta cells in the islets of Langerhans (found in the pancreas) are not capable of producing insulin. Almost all people who are type 1 diabetics need to inject insulin to control their blood glucose.

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes diagnosed. The main cause is normally due to cells of our body becoming resistant or less sensitive to insulin and a reduction in the secretion of insulin.

It normally manifests later in life and one of the predisposing factors are though to be central obesity. Central obesity or abdominal obesity is characterised as an excess amount of visceral fat that accumulates around the waist creating a ‘pot belly’. The more the obesity and the longer its duration the higher the risk for diabetes.

Diabetic Retinopathy

Picture of eye with Diabetic Retinopathy

Eye with Diabetic Retinopathy

Research have shown that if a person has a blood glucose level over 7mM (mmol/l) for more than 7 to 10 years, they are at a very high risk to develop diabetic retinopathy. It is therefore vital that a diabetic person has a dilated fundus examination (examination of the back of the eyes with the pupils dilated) at least once a year to rule out any damage to the retina.

So as we celebrate World Diabetes Day, please take the effort and have your blood glucose levels measured.

It might just safe your life!