Diabetes is a medical disorder of metabolism where a person’s blood sugar is abnormally high because the body has decreased production of insulin or because the body’s cells fail to respond normally to the insulin produced.
What Causes Diabetes?
When the food we eat is broken down in our digestive system, it produces glucose. Glucose is the form of sugar found in blood and is the body’s major source of fuel.
When ingested, glucose enters the bloodstream and is broken down by cells to help with energy production and growth. Glucose must enter cells but without the insulin hormone, this is not possible. The pancreas is the bodily organ that produces insulin in the body.
Like a machine, the pancreas is programmed to produce just the right amount of insulin to help transport glucose to the cells from the bloodstream. People with diabetes suffer the problem of having their pancreas produce less than normal amounts of insulin or none at all. In other cases, their cells do not function the way normal cells respond when insulin is produced. Glucose builds up in the blood stream, and is secreted out of the body through the urine. Therefore, glucose is wasted leaving the body with no source of fuel despite the high level of sugar.
Types of Diabetes
Type 1 Diabetes
This type of diabetes is autoimmune. This means the disease happens during the process where the body fights off infection causing the immune system to attack another part of the body. In this case, the immune system affects the beta cells that produce insulin in the pancreas, damaging or destroying them. In effect, the level of insulin produced is little to none. Sufferers of this type of diabetes cannot survive without taking in insulin every day.
Type 1 diabetes symptoms can be observed over a short period but the destruction of beta cells usually happen years before these symptoms appear. Some symptoms of Type 1 diabetes are constant thirst and urination, weight loss, constant hunger, extreme fatigue, and blurred vision. Without daily insulin, a type 1 diabetes sufferer can lapse into a deadly coma, otherwise known as diabetic ketoacidosis.
Type 2 Diabetes
This is the most prevalent type of diabetes affecting more than 90 percent of diabetes sufferers. Older people, obesity sufferers, or people with a diabetic family history usually have type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes can also be associated with obesity, ethnicity, lack of physical activity, and having a history of gestational diabetes.
Although the pancreas of type 2 diabetes sufferers produce sufficient insulin, insulin resistance causes the body to ineffectively make use of the insulin produced. Gradually, the pancreas produces less and less insulin.
Unlike type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes symptoms are usually evident gradually. These symptoms include but are not limited to nausea or fatigue, constant urination and thirst, blurred vision, weight loss, frequent infections, and slow healing of sores or wounds. In some cases, there are no symptoms at all.
This type of diabetes happens only during pregnancy. Similar to type 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes usually affect African Americans, Hispanic Americans, American Indians, as well as among women with a diabetic family history. Another thing worth noting is that women suffering gestational diabetes have a higher probability of suffering type 2 diabetes in the future.
Diabetes Facts and Figures
Diabetes is well known as being among the highest death-causing diseases in the US. It was considered the 7th leading lethal disease in 2006 but many fatalities due to diabetes still remain unreported especially in death certificates. In 2004, deaths of people aged 65 years and above, were known to be caused by diabetes in 68 percent of the cases while stroke accounted for a mere 16 percent.
Diabetes can cause complications that can affect the sufferer for the rest of his life affecting most of the body. Problems such as blindness, diseases of the blood vessel and heart, kidney failure, stroke, nerve damage, and amputations are not uncommon. Uncontrolled diabetes can create problems in pregnancy often resulting to birth defects.
In 2007, the United States spent more than $170 billion to treat the disease. Indirect expenditures such as time lost from work, disability payments, and decreased productivity amounted close to $60 billion. Direct medical expenditures to care for sufferers such as hospital bills, medical care, and medical supplies totaled more than $110 billion.
Management of Diabetes
In the years before 1921, anyone suffering from type 1 diabetes died shortly after being diagnosed. It should be noted though that insulin is not a cure. Nevertheless, it became the first major breakthrough for treating diabetes sufferers.
Modern diabetes management includes healthy diet, constant physical activity, and insulin intake especially for type 1 diabetes sufferers. The amount of insulin taken should be balanced with the physical activities and the food eaten. Doctors sometimes recommend injections.
Blood glucose levels should be monitored regularly. Sufferers should also monitor their blood glucose more than once a year utilizing a laboratory test named A1C. This test measures the average blood glucose of a sufferer over a period of 2 to 3 months.
Healthy diet, exercise, and testing blood glucose levels are basic procedures to test type 2 diabetes. Sufferers must take diabetes medicines which can take the form of insulin, pills, or injectables, to control blood glucose.
Adult sufferers have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. Diabetes management does not only mean controlling glucose levels, but also managing cholesterol levels and blood pressure by eating healthily, constant exercise, and medicine. These can lessen the risk suffered by type 2 diabetes patients.
Diabetes sufferers must be responsible for their health. Their daily activities should always include managing glucose levels. Excessively low blood glucose or hypoglycemia can make a person nervous and confused. Too much glucose on the other hand can make a person ill.
Diabetes sufferers should consult a health practitioner to help them through their diabetes management. It is recommended that diabetes patients have a team of health care providers including a primary care provider, a dietitian, an endocrinologist, an ophthalmologist, and a pediatrist.