Overview and Facts
Diabetes is a disease that occurs when there is too much glucose in your blood. It is a disorder of metabolism, which is the way our bodies use digested food for energy. Glucose needs insulin in order to move from the blood into our cells, but in people with diabetes, there is either little or no insulin produced, or the body does not respond properly to the insulin that is produced. This produces an overflow of glucose in the blood, which eventually passes into the urine and passes out of the body, meaning the body has lost its main source of fuel.
Research estimates that 23.6 million people in the United States have diabetes. There are three different types of diabetes:
Type 1: Diabetes type 1 is an autoimmune disease in which the body produces no insulin, which is necessary to produce energy in the body needed daily. Just 5-10% of people with diabetes have type 1 and though it is more commonly diagnosed in children and young adults, it can occur at any age. Typical treatment for type 1 diabetes is insulin therapy.
Type 2: Diabetes type 2 is the most common type of diabetes, as about 90-95% of people with diabetes have this type. It occurs when the body either doesn’t produce enough insulin, or the cells ignore the insulin that is produced. Type 2 diabetes is usually associated with obesity, family history of diabetes, older age and ethnicity. Latinos, Native Americans, African Americans and Asian Americans are at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Gestational diabetes:Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes that develops only during pregnancy. It usually occurs around 28 weeks or later and like type 2, there are ethnic groups that are at a higher risk. In order for the mother and baby to remain healthy throughout the pregnancy, it is important to follow doctor’s advice regarding blood sugar levels.
Signs and Symptoms
Many diabetes symptoms seem harmless, so diabetes often goes undiagnosed. In type 1 diabetes, symptoms usually develop in a short period of time. Symptoms of type 2 diabetes usually develop gradually and some people may have no symptoms at all. Early detection in both types of diabetes is important to best avoid complications. Common diabetes symptoms are:
Type 1 diabetes:
- Extreme and constant hunger
- Unusual weight loss
- Increased urination
- Excessive thirst
- Fatigue and irritability
Type 2 diabetes:
- Any symptoms of type 1 diabetes
- Increased infections
- Blurred vision
- Tingling in hands or feet
- Increased urination
- Slow healing of cuts or bruises
For gestational diabetes, there are usually no symptoms. However, some women who develop gestational diabetes will experience symptoms similar to those of type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
Causes and Diagnosis
Overall, the cause of diabetes is the body’s failure to produce enough insulin or the body’s failure to respond to the insulin. Within the different types of diabetes, there are numerous different factors that can cause the disorder, such as:
Genetics – it is believed that you are born with a predisposition to diabetes. If you have relatives who have diabetes, you are at a higher risk. However, this is dependent on the type of diabetes.
Weight – Being overweight or obese can put you at a higher risk of developing diabetes. High fat diets and lack of exercise can also be a factor.
Environmental factors – Viral infections can sometimes cause diabetes to develop.
Gestational diabetes is diagnosed based on plasma glucose values measured during the oral glucose tolerance test. Since there are few symptoms of gestational diabetes, your doctor will closely monitor your levels throughout your pregnancy.
Tests and Treatment Options
The long term goals of diabetes treatment is to reduce symptoms and prevent complications related to diabetes, such as kidney failure, heart disease, nerve damage and blindness.
Type 1 diabetes treatment usually requires insulin therapy. The goal of insulin therapy is to maintain blood glucose levels as close to normal as possible.
Type 2 diabetes treatment includes controlling blood glucose levels – some patients may be able to control their levels with healthy lifestyle changes, including quitting smoking, regular exercise and a heart-healthy diet. Heart disease and stroke are the major killers of people with type 2 diabetes so it is also important for type 2 diabetes treatment to treat conditions that place patients at risk those diseases.
Helpful Tips and Home Remedies
If you have diabetes, there are things you should know that can help you in managing the disease:
- How to give insulin
- Meal planning
- How to recognize and treat high and low blood sugar
Other tips that can help with diabetes:
- Avoid a sedentary lifestyle
- Eat a heart-healthy diet
- Exercise regularly