Diabetes: what is it, what are the symptoms, risk factors and complications

Diabetes is a metabolic syndrome, caused by different factors, which causes the body to develop defects in the action or production of insulin .

The disease is characterized by chronic hyperglycemia, which is the increase in blood sugar levels and develops through genetic, biological and environmental factors. The condition can be classified as type 1 or type 2 diabetes.

About 12.3 million people live with diabetes in Brazil, according to estimates by the Ministry of Health . The adoption of a healthy life and the regular practice of physical activities are the main measures that prevent and control diabetes mellitus.

Understand what diabetes is, what are the symptoms of the disease, the main risk factors, how the diagnosis is made and the necessary care to avoid complications.

What is the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes?

In type 1 diabetes, the body loses its ability to metabolize glucose (sugar). Diagnosis is early and usually affects children and adolescents In addition, the hereditary factor, which is when there is a family history, can also contribute.

Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, is characterized by insulin resistance, presents gradually and is more common in adults with inadequate habits that result in overweight , dyslipidemia (fats in the blood) and hypertension. This type of diabetes is not common in children.

What are the symptoms in type 1 diabetes?

The most common symptoms in this type of diabetes are:

  • increased hunger
  • constant thirst
  • need to urinate several times
  • weakness
  • fatigue
  • unexplained weight loss
  • nausea
  • vomit

What are the symptoms in type 2 diabetes?

In type 2 diabetes, manifestations may include: frequent hunger, constant thirst and the urge to urinate several times. In more advanced cases, with complications, there may be tingling in the feet and hands, frequent infections in the bladder, kidneys, skin infections, wounds that are slow to heal and blurred vision.

What are the risk factors for diabetes?

In addition to genetic factors and the absence of healthy habits , there are other risk factors that can contribute to the development of diabetes.

  • High pressure
  • High cholesterol or changes in blood triglycerides
  • Overweight, especially if the fat is concentrated around the waist
  • Parents, siblings, or first-degree relatives with diabetes
  • chronic kidney diseases
  • History of cardiovascular disease
  • smoking
  • Woman who gave birth to a child weighing more than 4 kg
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome;
  • Diagnosis of psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder
  • Sleep apnea
  • Use of glucocorticoid drugs

What is the difference between prediabetes and diabetes?

Pre-diabetes is the stage that precedes type 2 diabetes. The difference between them is blood glucose. The normal fasting blood glucose state is 70 mg/dl to 100 mg/l.

With fasting blood glucose levels between 100 and 125 mg/dl, this person is classified as pre-diabetic, that is, their blood glucose levels are above normal, but still below DM diagnostic values. Already levels from 126 mg/dl characterize a diagnosis of diabetes.

How is diabetes diagnosed?

Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes can be diagnosed through blood tests.

What are the complications of diabetes?

The patient with diabetes needs to control the disease to avoid complications in other organs, such as the brain, causing a stroke; eyes (diabetic retinopathy), causing blindness; heart , causing heart attack; kidneys (diabetic nephropathy), causing chronic kidney disease; nerves (diabetic neuropathy), causing numbness in the feet and ears causing hearing loss.

Does diabetes have a cure?

No. But it is possible to control the disease, both in type 1 and type 2, and the person will need permanent treatment to maintain adequate blood sugar levels.

What are the ways to prevent?

According to experts, the best way to prevent diabetes and several other diseases is to practice healthy habits, such as eating vegetables and at least three servings of fruit daily.

Reduce consumption of salt, sugar and fat, stop smoking, practice physical exercise regularly (at least 30 minutes every day) and keep your weight under control.


Diabetes treatment can be carried out by the Unified Health System (SUS). Specialists from basic health units (UBS) carry out the tracking and early identification.

Follow-up can be done from multidisciplinary medical consultation, home care, evaluation and foot care. In addition to health education actions, prevention and management of chronic complications of diabetes.

The SUS provides integrative and complementary health practices (PICS) that can be offered additionally. For patients with conditions that require special monitoring, they may be referred to Specialized Care and, subsequently, must have continued care at the UBSs.

The person with diabetes has access to medications provided for the treatment, which include insulins and oral antidiabetics. According to the Ministry of Health, the flow of distribution and selection of these drugs is the responsibility of the municipalities, within the PHC and other points of the health network.

Oral antidiabetics can be purchased at UBS, municipal pharmacies, popular pharmacies or via a specialized component of pharmaceutical assistance, depending on the medication. Currently, metformin hydrochloride, glibenclamide, gliclazide, and dapagliflozin are offered.

Sources: Karla Melo, doctor in endocrinology, physician at the Hospital das Clínicas of the University of São Paulo (USP) and coordinator of the Department of Public Health of the Brazilian Society of Diabetes, and specialists from the Secretariat of Primary Health Care (SAPS) of the Ministry of Health.


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