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Diabetis a Vall d'Hebron

Diabetes is a chronic disease brought about by the body’s inability to process sugar effectively. It occurs when the pancreas cannot produce insulin, or when the body cannot put it to use. This means there are high levels of glucose in the blood, which can damage organs, tissues and limbs if it remains high for a long time.

There are two types of diabetes: 1 and 2. Type 1 can only be treated with insulin, whereas type 2 can be prevented through doing sport, taking exercise and diet.


What is diabetes?

There are different types of diabetes depending on the harm they cause:

  • Type 1 diabetes, sometimes known as juvenile diabetes, is an autoimmune reaction in which the body’s defence system attacks the cells that create insulin, and so as a result they produce little or almost none. For this reason, people with this type of diabetes have to inject insulin daily to control the level of glucose in their blood. It generally affects children or young adults, but may show up at any age.
  • Type 2 diabetes, sometimes known as non-insulin dependant or adult diabetes, is more common and accounts for 90 % of cases. It may occur due to resistance to insulin, lack of insulin or both at the same time. It can affect people of any age who tend to be overweight or obese. It is usually treatable through diet and exercise, but may need oral medication or insulin in the long term.



There are several symptoms which may or may not appear. The most common are:

  • Excessive thirst
  • Increased need to urinate
  • Increased hunger
  • Weight loss
  • Tiredness
  • Tingling in the hands and feet
  • Blurred vision
  • Frequent infections
  • Wounds take a long time to heal
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain

In the case of type 1 diabetes, these symptoms may appear suddenly or over time, and may significantly affect general well-being.


Who is affected by diabetes?

Between 1980 and 2014, diabetes in adults rose from 4.7 % to 8.5 %. In addition, it has been found to be on the increase in countries with low and middle incomes.



It can be detected with a blood test analysed in the laboratory to measure glucose levels. Diabetes is confirmed if the level is equal to or higher than 126 mg/dL on two occasions. A normal glucose level would be between 110 and 125 mg/dL.  

In the case of type 2 diabetes, it can be in the body for many years without detection. For this reason, it is often diagnosed when a complication arises or as the result of a routine blood test.


Typical treatment

There are several types of medication that lower blood glucose levels. Each type of diabetes requires different treatment.

  • Type 1 diabetes: insulin is injected.
  • Type 2 diabetes: the first treatment to lower blood glucose levels is through weight loss and physical exercise. If this is not sufficient, oral medication or insulin injections can be prescribed.



Type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented, but environmental factors leading to the process that destroys insulin producing cells in the pancreas are being studied.

On the other hand, a balanced diet and increased physical exercise can help prevent type 2 diabetes. In other words, obesity should be avoided.

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