Understanding Diabetes: A Comprehensive Guide to Causes, Risk Factors, and Complications

Understanding Diabetes: A Comprehensive Guide to Causes, Risk Factors, and Complications


Diabetes is a chronic health condition that affects millions of people in India and around the world. It is marked by high blood sugar levels that can cause serious health problems if not managed well. This blog aims to educate readers about diabetes, covering its definition, statistics, causes, risk factors, and the complications that can arise from poor management.


Diabetes mellitus, often simply referred to as diabetes, encompasses a group of metabolic disorders characterised by elevated blood sugar levels that persist over an extended period. It occurs either when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it synthesises.


According to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), diabetes is a growing concern in India. Currently, nearly 74.2 million adults are living with diabetes, and this number is projected to rise to approximately 124.9 million by 2045. Alarmingly, about 53.1% of these individuals, or around 39 million people, are undiagnosed.

The prevalence of impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) and impaired fasting glucose (IFG) is also significant, affecting approximately 40.1 million and 75.1 million adults, respectively. These numbers are expected to increase to 65.6 million for IGT and 95.6 million for IFG by 2045.

Diabetes-related mortality is a serious issue, with 2.8% of deaths among adults aged 60 or younger attributed to this condition, translating to around 647,831 lives lost. The financial burden of diabetes is also substantial, with the current annual healthcare expenditure for diabetes-related issues amounting to INR 70,571.434 crore. This figure is projected to rise to INR 1,06,735.365 crore by 2045.

Complications from diabetes are common and varied. Microvascular complications include neuropathy (10.6%), nephropathy (5.9%), and retinopathy (0.8%). Meanwhile, macrovascular complications encompass coronary artery disease (2.5%), cerebrovascular disease (0.3%), and heart failure (0.2%), with peripheral artery disease notably absent in current reports. 

As the prevalence of diabetes continues to rise, addressing both the medical and financial impacts of this disease is crucial for the health and well-being of millions of Indians.  

Causes and Risk Factors

Diabetes results from a blend of genetic, lifestyle, and environmental influences, which can be categorised into non-modifiable and modifiable risk factors. Grasping these factors is pivotal for devising effective prevention and management approaches.

Non-Modifiable Risk Factors

These are factors beyond an individual's control, but understanding them aids in early diagnosis and preventive action.

  1. Genetics and Family History: A strong familial predisposition to diabetes, influenced by specific genetic mutations, heightens the risk for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
  2. Age: The likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes increases with age. Factors such as reduced physical activity, muscle mass loss, and weight gain commonly accompany ageing, contributing to this increased risk.
  3. Ethnicity: Certain ethnic backgrounds are associated with a higher risk of diabetes. Groups such as South Asians, African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans have an elevated susceptibility to the condition.

Modifiable Risk Factors

These are factors that individuals can adjust to lower their risk of developing diabetes.

      1.Obesity: Excessive body weight, particularly around the abdomen, poses a significant risk. Weight reduction can significantly decrease this risk.

Suggestion: Adopting a balanced diet and engaging in regular physical activity can aid in weight management.

      2. Physical Inactivity: A sedentary lifestyle heightens diabetes risk. Regular exercise supports weight maintenance and enhances insulin sensitivity.

Suggestion: Strive for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week.

      3. Unhealthy Diet: Diets rich in refined sugars, unhealthy fats, and lacking fibre contribute to obesity and diabetes risk.

Suggestion: Prioritise whole grains, lean proteins, healthy fats, and ample fruits and vegetables. Restrict your intake of processed foods and sugary beverages.

     4. Smoking: Smoking elevates the risk of diabetes and its complications. Ceasing smoking can substantially lower this risk.

Suggestion: Seek support from smoking cessation programs and resources.

     5. Stress: Chronic stress can induce hormonal changes that raise blood sugar levels.

Suggestion: Follow stress management techniques like yoga and meditation, and ensure sufficient sleep.

Complications of Poorly Managed Diabetes

Diabetes, when left untreated, can lead to various complications that affect different parts of the body. The following complications arise from increased blood sugar levels for a prolonged period. 

  • Retinopathy: Damage to blood vessels due to diabetes can result in diabetic retinopathy. This can impair vision and, if left unattended, may lead to blindness. 
  • Neuropathy: Elevated levels of blood sugar can cause damage to nerves throughout the body, known as diabetic neuropathy. This condition often impacts nerves in the feet and legs, resulting in sensations like numbness, tingling, pain, and weakness. Additionally, neuropathy can affect various organs and systems, leading to digestive complications, urinary issues, and sexual dysfunction.
  • Nephropathy: Diabetes is a primary contributor to kidney disease, termed diabetic nephropathy. With time, elevated blood sugar levels can harm the tiny blood vessels within the kidneys, diminishing their capacity to filter waste from the bloodstream. Left unchecked, this can lead to kidney impairment and ultimately to kidney failure.
  • Cardiovascular Complications: Diabetes substantially heightens the likelihood of cardiovascular diseases such as coronary artery disease, stroke, and heart attack. Elevated blood sugar levels can damage blood vessels and foster plaque buildup, amplifying the risk of blockages and diminished blood flow to the heart and brain.
  • Foot Complications: Diabetes can induce inadequate circulation and nerve impairment in the feet, rendering them prone to injuries and infections. Slowed wound healing and diminished sensation heighten the risk of significant foot complications, such as ulcers, infections, and, in severe instances, the necessity for amputation.
  • Skin Complications: Individuals with diabetes exhibit heightened susceptibility to diverse skin issues, encompassing bacterial and fungal infections, itching, and dryness. Elevated blood sugar levels foster an environment conducive to the proliferation of bacteria and fungi, thus amplifying the likelihood of infections.
  • Mental Health Issues: Diabetes can also exert an influence on mental health, playing a role in conditions like depression and anxiety. The demands of managing a chronic illness, coupled with the biochemical alterations linked to diabetes, can influence mood and emotional equilibrium.

  • Conclusion

    Understanding diabetes, its risk factors, and its complications is crucial for effective management. By adopting healthier lifestyles and staying informed, individuals can mitigate risks and improve their quality of life, ultimately curbing the rising tide of diabetes and its profound impact on health and well-being.

    To know about the Approaches to Managing Diabetes, Click Here

    Back to blog

    Leave a comment

    Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.