In 2019, 1 in 5 people in the Philippines was found to be diabetic. Two years later, the disease saw 66,000 related deaths and affected 4.3 million people – a number expected to reach 7.5 million in the near future. Among people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, 32% also suffer cardiovascular complications and more than 87% are either overweight or obese. No wonder diabetes is the country’s 4th most serious disease.

The Philippines is not alone in this crisis. Worldwide, about 537 million adults aged 20 to 79 years old are affected – a number expected to hit 783 million by 2045. Diabetes is no longer a concern reserved for old age. Over 1.2 million Type 1 diabetes are 19 years old and below, and nearly half of diabetic adults remain undiagnosed – a testament to the lack of education on the disease.

Health impact wise, adults with diabetes are 2 to 3 times more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke. Diabetes is also the leading cause of blindness and kidney failure. Studies have also shown that diabetics are more likely to have poorer outcomes for several infectious diseases including Covid-19.

What is diabetes

Diabetes mellitus (DM) is a chronic disease which involves issues with metabolism of sugar in the blood. When consuming carbohydrates (including sugar and starch, etc.), these foods become dextrose after digestion, turning into glucose as they are absorbed into blood circulation system by the small intestine. The pancreas secretes insulin, helping cells absorb this glucose for use by the body as energy.

The glucose level in the blood rises when the pancreas does not secrete sufficient insulin, or the body cannot make use of the insulin produced (this is known as insulin resistance). This results in abnormal levels of sugar in the blood while the body is starved of energy.

Four Common Types of diabetes

1.    Type 1 Diabetes (T1DM)

Type 1 diabetes is a form of diabetes characterized by the lack of insulin. Insulin is an important hormone produced by the organ pancreas to ‘shuttle’ sugars from the blood into the cells. 

Common Symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes

  • Sudden, unplanned weight loss
  • Onset of nausea and/or vomiting
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Increased thirst and frequent urination

Causes of Type 1 Diabetes

Genetic predisposition - family history of a parent or direct sibling being diagnosed with diabetes. Type 1 diabetes normally occur in children to young adults.

2.    Type 2 Diabetes (T2DM)

Type 2 diabetes, or T2DM is the most common form of diabetes mellitus. Where Type 1 diabetes occurs due to a lack of insulin secretion in the body, Type 2 diabetes is caused by the inefficient use of insulin or ‘faulty signaling’ in the cells, also known as insulin resistance. 

Common Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes

T2DM is also known as a ‘silent disease’ with less noticeable symptoms, especially in the very beginning. Overtime, the symptoms that appear share some similarities with Type 1 diabetes. If your blood glucose level has been high for a prolonged period of time, these are the symptoms that may appear.

  • Yeast infections

Yeast thrives off glucose. A high blood glucose level is conducive for yeast to thrive, resulting in yeast infections. These infections can grow in any warm, moist fold of skin such as between fingers and toes, under the breasts and in or around sex organs.

  • Slow-healing sores or wounds

Prolonged periods of high blood sugar can also affect your blood flow. This causes nerve damage that makes it hard for your body  to regenerate and heal from cuts and other wounds.

  • Pain or numbness in the feet or legs

Pain and numbness in your lower limbs may also be another sign of nerve damage.

Causes of Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is largely a product of weight gain from a rich diet and sedentary lifestyle. Other risk factors include age and family history of diabetes, though these play a smaller role.

READ: Difference between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes

3.    Gestational Diabetes (GDM)

Gestational or pregnancy diabetes is a phenomenon that occurs in some women during pregnancy. This occurs when blood glucose levels are higher than normal but lower than the diagnosis of diabetes, translating to a higher risk of type 2 diabetes for the mother down the line. and could spell complications during one’s term and delivery.

Symptoms of Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is normally diagnosed through prenatal screening as there are no outward signs or symptoms.

4.    Prediabetes

Prediabetes: as its name goes, it is the stage before actual diabetes. Prediabetes is coined as a condition where the blood sugar readings are higher than a normal person’s blood sugar levels, but not high enough to be medically diagnosed as diabetes. If untreated, people with prediabetes normally end up with full blown diabetes (Type 2 diabetes).

Unlike Type 1 and 2 diabetes, prediabetes is reversible through a combination of physical activity and dietary changes. People with pre-diabetes should get their blood sugar level measured every six months to get a good gauge on how their food intake and current lifestyle affects their health.11

People over 40 who have normal blood sugar levels, but with a family history of Type 2 diabetes, should also undergo regular health screenings.11

The two most common types of diabetes are irreversible and these are chronic and costly conditions. A diabetic’s maintenance medication needs to be funded for a lifetime, not to mention treatment costs for possible complications. Even if you have PhilHealth and HMO, you should build funds for future healthcare costs with products such as SUN Fit and Well. You can also ask a Sun Life Financial Advisor to know your best options.