What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a metabolic syndrome where the blood glucose (sugar) levels are above normal.
This results from the inability of the glucose to get into body cells. As a result the cells of
body are starving for their food (glucose).
About 366 million people globally are believed to have diabetes and one-third of those patients
don't even know they have it. Diabetes can cause serious health complications including heart
disease, blindness, kidney failure, and lower-extremity amputations. And most diabetics
develop heart disease. In fact, just having diabetes carries the same risk of having a heart
attack as someone who has already had such an event. Therefore it is very important for
patients that have diabetes to also have a physician that closely monitors and treats their
cholesterol levels as well as their blood pressure. Additionally, any use of tobacco products
and alcohol multiply the risks.
There are different kinds of diabetes. In any form of diabetes there is some underlying reason
why the body is not able to utilize glucose (sugar) for energy, and that causes the levels of
glucose (sugar) in the blood build up above normal. There are three areas that are important
to understand the diabetes. First, the cells in the body which use the glucose are important as
they must be able to remove sugar from the blood and put it inside the cell as a fuel.
Secondly, the insulin which is produced by pancreas is important to allow the sugar to enter
the cell (the key to unlock the door to enter), and lastly, glucose which is broken down from
the food or from muscle and liver from a storage form of glucose called glycogen.
Types Of Diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults and only accounts for 5-
10% of diabetes patients. In type 1 diabetes the pancreas doesn't make any insulin at all.
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of the disease. It accounts for 90-95% of all the
cases of diabetes. In type 2 diabetes, either the body doesn't make enough insulin or the cells
in the body ignore the insulin so they can't utilize glucose like they are supposed to. When the
cells ignore the insulin, as mentioned above, it is often referred to as insulin resistance.
Other types of diabetes which only account for a small number of the cases of diabetes
include gestational diabetes, which is a type of diabetes that only pregnant women get. If not
treated, it can cause problems for mothers and babies and usually disappears when the
pregnancy is over. Other types of diabetes resulting from specific genetic syndromes,
surgery, drugs, malnutrition, infections, and other illnesses may account for 1% to 2% of all
cases of diabetes.
How do you get diabetes?
There are risk factors that increase your chance of developing diabetes. Risk factors for type
2 diabetes include older age, obesity, family history of diabetes, prior history of gestational
diabetes, impaired glucose tolerance, physical inactivity, and race/ethnicity. Risk factors are
less well defined for type 1 diabetes than for type 2 diabetes, but autoimmune, genetic, and
environmental factors are involved in developing this type of diabetes.
What are the symptoms of diabetes?
People who think they might have diabetes must visit a physician for a diagnosis. They might
have SOME or NONE of the following symptoms: frequent urination, excessive thirst,
unexplained weight loss, extreme hunger, sudden vision changes, tingling or numbness in
hands or feet, feeling very tired much of the time, very dry skin, sores that are slow to heal,
more infections than usual. Nausea, vomiting, or stomach pains may accompany some of
these symptoms in the abrupt onset of type 1 diabetes.
How diabetes is treated?
There are several things you need to do to help control the diabetes. For type 1 diabetes,
Healthy eating, physical activity, and insulin injections are the basic therapies. The amount of
insulin taken must be balanced with food intake and daily activities. For patients with type 1
diabetes, blood glucose levels must be closely monitored through frequent blood glucose
For type 2 diabetes, healthy eating, physical activity, and blood glucose testing are the basic
therapies. In addition, many people with type 2 diabetes require oral medication, insulin, or
both to control their blood glucose levels.
When the blood sugar is too high, doctor refers to it as hyperglycemia. When blood sugar is
too high, one may not experience any symptoms, but the high levels of glucose in blood is
causing damage to blood vessels and organs.
When blood sugar is too low, doctor refers to it as hypoglycemia. Having low blood sugar
can be very dangerous and patients taking medication for diabetes should watch for
symptoms of low blood sugar. It is also important that one should monitor the blood sugar
regularly to avoid both low as well as high blood sugar.
What happens if diabetes is not controlled?
The complications of diabetes can be devastating. Both forms of diabetes ultimately lead to
high blood sugar levels, a condition called hyperglycemia. The damage that hyperglycemia
causes to the body is extensive and includes:
Damage to the retina from diabetes (diabetic retinopathy) is a leading cause of blindness.
Diabetes predisposes people to high blood pressure and high cholesterol and triglyceride
levels. These independently and together with hyperglycemia increase the risk of heart
disease, kidney disease, and other blood vessel complications.
Damage to the nerves in the autonomic nervous system can lead to paralysis of the stomach
(gastroparesis), chronic diarrhea, and an inability to control heart rate and blood pressure with
Damage to the kidneys from diabetes (diabetic nephropathy) is a leading cause of kidney
Damage to the nerves from diabetes (diabetic neuropathy) is a leading cause of lack of
normal sensation in the foot, which can lead to wounds and ulcers, and all too frequently to
foot and leg amputations.
Diabetes accelerates atherosclerosis or "hardening of the arteries", and the formation of fatty
plaques inside the arteries, which can lead to blockages or a clot (thrombus), which can then
lead to heart attack, stroke, and decreased circulation in the arms and legs (peripheral
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