Diabetes (general)




Diabetes is a progressively evolving (chronic) disease that causes blood sugar (glucose) levels (hyperglycaemia) to rise above normal levels.

After 8 hours of fasting, blood glucose levels are normally below 100 milligrams / deciliter (mg / dL) and diabetes is considered established (diagnosed) when, at least twice, blood glucose levels are above 126 mg / dl (Video).

There are two main types of diabetes (Video):

  • type 1 diabetes, the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin are destroyed by the body's defense system (immune system). Insulin, a hormone that regulates blood glucose levels, is then no longer produced because the pancreas is damaged in such a way. irreversible
  • type 2 diabetes, insulin is unable to maintain normal blood glucose levels because it is insufficient or because the body's cells do not respond normally to it

During pregnancy, some women may experience a temporary increase in blood glucose levels. This condition is referred to as gestational diabetes and affects up to 18% of pregnant women.

Type 2 diabetes is much more common than type 1 diabetes.


This term refers to the presence of blood glucose levels slightly above normal but below the values ​​that indicate diabetes. In fact, the term pre-diabetes it does not imply that the person will necessarily develop diabetes but that it must be followed more accurately as it is a condition that increases the risk of developing diabetic disease and cardiovascular disease (Video).

When to see the doctor

A medical examination is advisable if symptoms (symptoms) attributable to diabetes appear:

  • need to drink frequently
  • need to urinate more frequently than usual, especially at night
  • feeling tired
  • loss of weight and muscle mass
  • itching of the genital organs and / or frequent episodes of candidiasis (also called "thrush") in women
  • cuts or wounds that heal slowly
  • blurred vision

Type 1 diabetes develops rapidly, over a period of weeks or days, while type 2 diabetes manifests itself with subtle disorders. Its assessment is therefore usually carried out late (even after years).

It is important that diabetes is ascertained as soon as possible to quickly start treatments that will avoid the progressive worsening of the disease (Video).



The amount of glucose in the blood is regulated by a hormone, called insulin, produced by the pancreas, a gland located behind the stomach.
Food is digested in the stomach and the glucose contained in it is absorbed in the intestine and passes into the blood. Insulin regulates the transport of glucose from the blood into the cells, where it is used for energy production.

In people with diabetes, blood glucose levels rise because the body does not produce enough insulin, or because the insulin produced does not work properly (Video).

Living with

Living with

People with diabetes must receive education in self-management of their disease from the moment of its assessment (diagnosis). This will allow them to know how to make decisions and to be actively involved in the path of care. It is particularly important that this educational process also reach people with pre-diabetes in order to prevent or delay the onset of the disease.

People with diabetes must observe an adequate lifestyle, eat healthy foods, practice regular exercise, maintain normal weight (Body Mass Index, BMI) (Video) and periodically undergo blood tests to check that the level glucose (Video) is acceptable (read the Hoax). As for medications, people with type 1 diabetes must use regular insulin injections throughout their lives. People with type 2 diabetes, in general, are treated with medicines in tablets (read the Bufala).

Periodic checks

Diabetes causes major complications affecting the heart, blood vessels, kidneys, eye and nerves and requires periodic checks of the various organs involved. It can cause damage to the retina, called retinopathy diabetic which, if left untreated, can lead to loss of vision. Every person with diabetes must, therefore, undergo an initial eye examination when the disease is diagnosed and then at least every two years if there is no retinal injury. In the case of signs of eye damage, the checks must be closer.

In type 1 diabetes, since these are generally younger people, if there are no retinal changes at the time the disease is ascertained, the second eye check can be performed after 5 years.

A regular eye examination, which includes a fundus examination, aims to detect any damage to the retina as soon as possible, in order to act in the initial stages and, therefore, in the most effective way.

To control any effects of diabetes on the heart and blood vessels, it is recommended to carry out an electrocardiogram, once a year, and blood pressure periodically.

Kidney function should be checked annually by evaluating the amount of albumin in the urine. In people with type 1 diabetes, the analysis is recommended 5 years after the diagnosis of the disease.

All people with diabetes must undergo a complete foot examination at least once a year.

In-depth link

In-depth link

EpiCentro (ISS). Diabetes

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