Diabetes mellitus is a metabolic disease that occurs when the pancreas is unable to produce the insulin needed to keep blood glucose (sugar) levels stable.
When we eat, the digestive system breaks down the food we eat into smaller compounds until it is converted into glucose, the main 'food' and source of energy for our cells. In order for cells to 'eat' this sugar, they need insulin, a hormone produced in the pancreas.
Thus, if there is not enough insulin to make the cells feed on the available glucose, or if the insulin does not have enough effect on the cells to make them "eat" it, the glucose will remain circulating in the blood, causing blood sugar levels to skyrocket, with harmful effects on our health.
There are three types of diabetes:
- Insulin-dependent or Type IThe disease involves destruction of the insulin-producing cells and requires lifelong injectable insulin for treatment.
- Adult or type IIusually appears in adulthood (usually over the age of 40) and is usually caused by a resistance of the cells to insulin. It is usually treated with pills and in more severe cases with injectable insulin.
- Gestational diabetesusually appears during pregnancy and usually disappears after childbirth. It is due to hormonal changes that block the action of insulin.
When gestational diabetes occurs, it is usually diagnosed between 24-28 weeks of gestation, which is the time when the O'Sullivan test. It is done during this period because this is when hormones are most likely to alter the functioning of insulin. If this test is positive, the presence of this type of diabetes is suspected and another more specific test must be done to confirm the diagnosis.
Women are at high risk if they have one or more of the following factors and do not have to wait until 24-28 weeks to take the O'Sullivan test.
- Age 35 years or older
- History of first-degree relatives with diabetes
- Periodontitis (inflammation of the gums and surrounding tissues)
- Ethnic groups with higher genetic disposition
- Diabetes in previous pregnancies
- Previously delivered baby weighing more than 4kg at birth.
If you have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, do everything your doctor tells you to do, including a routine check-up with a dentist or periodontist to check the health of your gums: by following these simple tips, you shouldn't have any problems.