©CC0_rawpixel

Many people are suffering from diabetes, only they don’t realise because they don’t exhibit any symptoms. Diabetes can be diagnosed with a simple blood test.

Forms of diabetes: Type 1 and type 2

According to information from the World Health Organisation, over 400 million people suffer from diabetes around the world. It’s important to differentiate between type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes often emerges in childhood or teenage years due to a complete lack of insulin produced naturally in the body. Notably, a lack of insulin is caused by an autoimmune destruction of insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. As a result, blood sugar levels rise and the patient has to receive an insulin injection.

In the case of type 2 diabetes, insulin is still produced, but the patient’s cells become increasingly resistant. Insulin helps cells to absorb glucose from the bloodstream. If the cells no longer absorb glucose, blood sugar levels rise.

Along with type 1 and type 2 diabetes, there is also such a thing as type 3 diabetes (pancreatic disease, infections or chemicals) and type 4 diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy), however, these forms of diabetes are very rare. Type 2 diabetes is far and away the most common form. In Germany, roughly 90-95% of diabetics suffer from this easily treatable form.

Difficult to diagnose: Diabetes symptoms

An unbalanced diet, obesity and a lack of exercise increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Age is also a decisive factor. According to Prof. Dr. Andreas Fritsche of the University Hospital of Tübingen, a distinguished diabetes expert in Germany, the most important factor behind the increase in diabetes is that we are getting older. Age is the biggest risk factor for type 2 diabetes.

These symptoms could be a sign of diabetes

Generally-speaking, those suffering from type 2 diabetes tend to experience a subtle form of the aforementioned symptoms, meaning the disease is often only discovered when the affected person is taken to hospital for another ailment. Unfortunately, this other health issue would have been avoided, had the diabetes been discovered at an earlier stage. For example, high blood sugar levels block arteries which can cause a heart attack if the coronary arteries are affected. If the carotid artery becomes blocked, this can lead to circulatory problems in the brain, which often results in a stroke.

The symptoms of type 1 diabetes develop at a significantly faster rate than those of type 2 diabetes. It often only takes a matter of weeks before patients go to their doctor as they’re constantly thirsty and are passing fluids very frequently. The symptoms deteriorate so rapidly as once a certain point is reached, the majority of insulin-producing islet pancreatic cells are destroyed and the insulin balance completely collapses, with the aforementioned results.

If diabetes is suspected, it is very easy to confirm it with one simple blood sugar test. The doctor refers to various threshold values to determine whether the blood sugar levels are too high.

Therapies and medication are prescribed individually in Germany

Diabetes therapies take into account whether the patient is a type 1 or a type 2 sufferer. Type 1 sufferers have to inject themselves with insulin from the point which they are diagnosed. Meanwhile, type 2 diabetics can forego medication and insulin for a long time or even forever provided they radically change their lifestyle. A revised diet goes hand in hand with a change in lifestyle. This revised diet is established at nutritional therapy which also addresses how regular exercise and sport can easily be integrated into the patient’s daily routine.

Regardless of which form of diabetes they suffer from, diabetics must learn how to monitor their own body by regularly measuring their blood sugar levels. Knowing how to react in emergencies is also key: What do I do if my blood sugar is low? What do I do in case of infection? Thanks to patient training sessions, sufferers in Germany learn about the condition and how they can help themselves if necessary.
If a balanced diet and physical activity prove insufficient, patients take anti-diabetic medication orally which reduces their blood sugar level. This medication can be sorted into two core groups:

Compounds which effect the beta cells by releasing insulin from the pancreatic cells. Such drugs include sulphonylurea, glinides and gliptins.

Compounds which do not effect the beta cells. These drugs do not affect the release of insulin but they do work on other parts of the sugar metabolism. Such drugs include metformin, thiazolidinedione, alpha-glucosidase inhibitors and gilfozin.

The doctor prescribes medication to each patient individually. Existing medical conditions, dietary and exercise habits, the patient’s weight and other factors also play a role. Doctors often recommend an insulin therapy if blood sugar levels have not been restored to a normal level during the course of a medicinal therapy. An insulin compound is administered as part of insulin therapy to make up for the lack of insulin produced within the body.

Several tens of thousands of patients in Germany use insulin pump therapy. If patients often suffer from low blood sugar levels overnight, which make therapy without a pump difficult, insulin pump therapy can help stabilise insulin levels. The pump injects insulin up to 480 times a day, which minimises complications such as irregularities in blood sugar levels.

Patients who are severely overweight can undergo an operation if all conservative therapy methods do not help them to lose weight. The surgical procedure involves decreasing the size of the patient’s stomach and/or intestine. In turn, the patient’s hunger will be satisfied more quickly, meaning they consume less.

Choosing the right clinic

Diabetes is a very common condition in Germany meaning there is a specialised clinic which can guarantee top-quality treatment in almost every region. Weekly magazine FOCUS lists Germany’s top diabetes clinics and surgeries and is also a useful resource. Should you have your eye on a particular city or a specific doctor, you can also ask us about a suitable hospital at any time.