Non-communicable Diseases

Speaking diabetes: One term at a time

The key to a good story is the right seasoning of words, punctuation and simplicity.

Here are a couple of words commonly used when discussing diabetes on matters diagnosis, treatment and management.

Let’s walk together as consultant physician and senior instructor Dr Erick Njenga breaks down important terms commonly used when talking about diabetes.

  • Diabetes

Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs either when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces. Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar.

  • Type 1 diabetes

It is caused by a lack of insulin due to a distraction of the pancreas by antibodies. This forms part of auto-immune diabetes. It affects children and can occur in young adults up to approximately 25 years. These individuals have to be on life-long insulin from the point of diagnosis.

  • Type 2 diabetes

It results from the body’s ineffective use of insulin. While type 2 diabetes is potentially preventable, the causes and risk factors for type 1 diabetes remain unknown, and prevention strategies have not yet been successful.

Dr Eric Njenga, a consultant physician endocrinologist at the Aga Khan University Hospital
  • Gestational diabetes

It occurs during pregnancy. Women with gestational diabetes are at an increased risk of complications during pregnancy and at delivery. These women and possibly their children are also at increased risk of type 2 diabetes in the future.

  • Pre-diabetes– This happens when your blood sugar level is higher than it should be but not high enough for your doctor to diagnose diabetes
  • Insulin-This is the hormone that regulates blood sugar.
  • Diabetic retinopathy is an eye condition that can cause vision loss and blindness in people who have diabetes.
  • Blood Glucose– It is also known as blood sugar, it is the main type of sugar found in the blood and the body’s primary source of energy.
  • Diabetic Neuropathy: This refers to nerve damage that results from poorly controlled blood sugar.
Photo by on Unsplash
  • Hyperglycaemia- This describes a status of the body of high blood sugar which occurs when the body has too little insulin or can’t use insulin properly.
  • Hypoglycaemia– A condition in which your blood sugar (glucose) level is lower than normal. This occurs when blood sugar levels fall below 70 mg/dL.
  • Impaired glucose tolerance means that blood glucose is raised beyond normal levels, but not high enough to warrant a diabetes diagnosis.
  • Metformin-This is an oral medicine that is generally the first-line medication used to treat type 2 diabetes. It is also used to treat gestational diabetes and pre-diabetes as well.
  • Self-Monitoring of Blood Glucose (SBMG)– This is the process of blood glucose testing by people with diabetes. This promotes an understanding on how the blood glucose levels vary during the day so that their treatment can be adjusted accordingly.

What are the signs and symptoms of diabetes Type 1 &. 2 Diabetes ?

  • Excessive excretion of urine (polyuria),
  • Frequent thirst (polydipsia),
  • Constant hunger
  • Unexplained Weight loss
  • Vision changes

The complications of diabetes include;

  • Kidney failure
  • Leg amputation
  • Vision loss
  • Erectile disfunction in males with poorly controlled diabetes
  • Nerve damage.
  • Adults with diabetes also have two- to three-fold increased risk of heart attacks and strokes

In pregnancy, poorly controlled diabetes increases the risk of foetal death and other complications.

In the next couple of editions, we explore diabetes treatment and management deeper.

Belt up !

Welcome Onboard.


World Health Organisation

Mayo Clinic



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