What is Diabetes?
Diabetes Mellitus, commonly known as Diabetes, is a condition where the body has more glucose than needed. Alternatively it can also be said that “Diabetes is a condition where the body has less Insulin than needed”. The dictionary defines it as “A chronic metabolic disorder marked by hyperglycemia”. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines it as “A heterogeneous metabolic disorder characterized by common feature of chronic hyperglycemia with disturbance of carbohydrate, fat and protein metabolism”.
Hyperglycemia is just medical speak for ‘excessive glucose (sugar) level in the blood’.
What is Insulin?
Insulin is a hormone produced by the Pancreas (beta cells). Its main function is to reduce the glucose levels in the bloodstream. All the excess glucose is converted to glycogen and stored in the Liver.
What is glucose and what role does it play?
Glucose is what gives the body the energy to make muscles and other tissues. Our bodies receive the glucose they need through food and stores in the liver. Glucose is absorbed into the blood and is then transferred to the cells with the help of insulin. The liver stores glucose as glycogen and converts it back into glucose when you haven’t eaten or when your insulin levels are low.
How does excess glucose harm the body? (Pathogenesis of Diabetes)
You must be wondering why excess of glucose is bad, since glucose gives us energy. Well, there’s more to it than meets the eye. Glucose does give us energy but excess of it does more harm than good.
- Non-enzymatic protein glycosylation :
The body is made up of tissues just as a house is made up of bricks. Now we know that the bricks are in-turn made up of tiny sand/stone particles, like-wise, the body tissues are made up of proteins.
So in presence of excess of glucose, these proteins bind to it by various bio-chemical processes and are no longer in their natural form. They get chemically altered and are hence dangerous to the body. For example, the tissues of blood vessels get thickened in the presence of excess glucose which in-turn leads to many more complications.
Polyol pathway mechanism :
Tissues in the lens of the eye, kidney and nerves have an enzyme (aldose reductase) which reacts with excess glucose to form certain compounds (sorbitol/fructose). These compounds are again harmful to the body as it leads to swelling up of the calls.
- Excessive oxygen free radicals :
Excess glucose leads to the formation of excessive oxygen free radicals which are again harmful to the body.
Likewise, deficiency of insulin too is harmful because in the absence of insulin, the body will have more glucose than needed and the consequences of excess of glucose have just been discussed.