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Understanding Diabetes Mellitus

What is diabetes mellitus?

The pancreas produces a hormone known as insulin that controls blood glucose level. When insulin production is insufficient or when insulin does not function properly, glucose cannot be converted into energy we need. This results in increased blood glucose level and the extra glucose will be excreted in urine, a condition known as diabetes mellitus (or diabetes in short).

Types of diabetes mellitus

1. Type I diabetes mellitus

This condition is also known as insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus in which damaged insulin producing cells of the pancreas render it unable to produce insulin. This type of diabetes is related to hereditary factors, disorders of the immune system or environmental factors.

2. Type II diabetes mellitus

This condition is also known as non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. This is the commonest type of diabetes in which insulin does not function properly despite the normal or relatively slightly lowered level. This type of diabetes mellitus is due to the resistance to insulin inside the body. It is also related to hereditary factors, unhealthy eating habits, obesity or lack of physical activity.

Who are more at risk?

  1. Hereditary factors: Those with a family history of diabetes mellitus are more at risk.
  2. Obesity (particularly those with abdominal fat deposit).
  3. People who are middle-aged or above.
  4. Women who have suffered from diabetes during pregnancy or who have given birth to big babies. (Big baby refers to a baby heavier than 4 kg at birth.)
  5. Lack of physical activity.


  1. Frequent urination and increased amount of urine excretion.
  2. Frequent thirsty sensation.
  3. Easy fatigue.
  4. Increased appetite.
  5. Weight loss.
  6. Vulval itchiness due to yeast infections.
  7. Blurred vision due to retinopathy.
  8. Numbness, piercing pain or weakness of the legs.
  9. Wounds that are prone to infection and difficult to heal.


  1. Have a balanced diet. Eat more food rich in fibre, such as vegetables, fruits, raw grains, wholemeal bread and brown rice.
  2. Parents should encourage children to eat healthily and discourage them from eating too much food with high-sugar or high-fat content.
  3. Do not over-eat because the surplus calories can lead to obesity.
  4. Take part in regular and moderate physical activity.

Diabetes mellitus is a chronic disease. In fact, many diabetic patients, especially those at the early stage of disease, do not have symptoms. Please seek medical advice if you are in doubt about your health.