What is Diabetes?

 

Diabetes is a disease in which high levels of sugar are in the blood. It is caused by a problem in the way the body makes or uses insulin, which is needed to move blood sugar (glucose) into cells and convert it to energy.

 


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Learning about Diabetes


 

Type 1 diabetes is associated with low levels of insulin. It is an autoimmune disease that accounts for about 5 to 10 percent of diabetes in the US and can occur at any age. However, it is most often diagnosed in children, adolescents or young adults. In this type of diabetes, insulin-producing cells in the pancreas are attacked by the body’s own immune system. Thus people with type 1 diabetes need insulin, injected or through a pump, to regulate their blood sugar. There is currently no way to prevent or cure type 1 diabetes.

 

Early symptoms may be sudden and severe and include:

  • Increased thirst, hunger and fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Losing weight without trying
  • Urinating more often

Type 2 diabetes is associated with high levels of insulin. It is the most common type of diabetes and usually occurs slowly over time.

 

With type 2 diabetes, the body develops insulin resistance, becoming less sensitive to insulin and therefore producing large amounts. The pancreas cannot sustain this elevated level of insulin production and eventually is unable to produce enough to move glucose into cells. When glucose builds up in blood rather than being processed by cells, many complications can arise including dehydration, diabetic coma, foot problems, skin infections, damage to the eyes, kidneys, heart and increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

 

Family history and genes play a large role in type 2 diabetes. Low activity level, poor diet, and excess body weight around the waist increase the risk, as more fat makes it harder for the body to use insulin the correct way. Age is another contributing factor.

 

If type 2 diabetes is diagnosed early it often can be controlled with healthy lifestyle choices in diet and exercise. Otherwise it will require medications and eventually insulin injections for ongoing management.

 

People with type 2 diabetes often do not detect symptoms prior to screening or until health complications appear, but symptoms may include:

  • Increased thirst, hunger and fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • More frequent urination
  • Tingling or numbness in the feet
  • Dry mouth

Gestational diabetes is diabetes that develops during pregnancy. If left untreated it can cause health problems for the baby.

 

If you are at risk or have symptoms, talk to a physician about diabetes screening.

 
BY MONICA RAY | PHOTO BY GLENN DUBOCK

 

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Jul12