Diabetes is a lifelong condition that is characterized by a raised blood glucose level.
Diabetes is a lifelong condition that is characterized by a raised blood glucose level. There are two main types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. Signs of diabetes include an increased sense of thirst, frequent urination, fatigue, weight and muscle loss, cuts or wounds that heal slowly and blurred vision. It is extremely important for diabetes to be diagnosed as early as possible - if left untreated the condition will get progressively worse.
An overview of diabetes types and treatments
Diabetes is a condition that impairs the body's ability to process blood glucose, otherwise known as blood sugar.
In the United States, the estimated number of people over 18 years of age with diagnosed and undiagnosed diabetes is 30.2 million. The figure represents between 27.9 and 32.7 percent of the population.
Without ongoing, careful management, diabetes can lead to a buildup of sugars in the blood, which can increase the risk of dangerous complications, including stroke and heart disease.
Different kinds of diabetes can occur, and managing the condition depends on the type. Not all forms of diabetes stem from a person being overweight or leading an inactive lifestyle. In fact, some are present from childhood.
Three major diabetes types can develop Type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes.
Type I diabetes: Also known as juvenile diabetes, this type occurs when the body fails to produce insulin. People with type I diabetes are insulin-dependent, which means they must take artificial insulin daily to stay alive.
Type 2 diabetes: Type 2 diabetes affects the way the body uses insulin. While the body still makes insulin, unlike in type I, the cells in the body do not respond to it as effectively as they once did. This is the most common type of diabetes, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, and it has strong links with obesity.
Gestational diabetes: This type occurs in women during pregnancy when the body can become less sensitive to insulin. Gestational diabetes does not occur in all women and usually resolves after giving birth.
Less common types of diabetes include monogenic diabetes and cystic fibrosis-related diabetes.
Click here to learn more about type I diabetes.
Doctors refer to some people as having prediabetes or borderline diabetes when blood sugar is usually in the range of 100 to 125 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL).
Normal blood sugar levels sit between 70 and 99 mg/dL, whereas a person with diabetes will have a fasting blood sugar higher than 126 mg/dL.
The prediabetes level means that blood glucose is higher than usual but not so high as to constitute diabetes.
People with prediabetes are, however, at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, although they do not usually experience the symptoms of full diabetes.
The risk factors for prediabetes and type 2 diabetes are similar. They include:
If a doctor identifies that a person has prediabetes, they will recommend that the individual makes healthful changes that can ideally stop the progression to type 2 diabetes. Losing weight and having a more healthful diet can often help prevent the disease.
How insulin problems develop
Doctors do not know the exact causes of type I diabetes. Type 2 diabetes, also known as insulin resistance, has clearer causes.
Insulin allows the glucose from a person's food to access the cells in their body to supply energy. Insulin resistance is usually a result of the following cycle:
A person has genes or an environment that make it more likely that they are unable to make enough insulin to cover how much glucose they eat.
The body tries to make extra insulin to process excess blood glucose.
The pancreas cannot keep up with the increased demands, and the excess blood sugar starts to circulate in the blood, causing damage.
Over time, insulin becomes less effective at introducing glucose to cells, and blood sugar levels continue to rise.
In the case of type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance takes place gradually. This is why doctors often recommend making lifestyle changes in an attempt to slow or reverse this cycle.
People with type I diabetes and some people with type 2 diabetes may need to inject or inhale insulin to keep their blood sugar levels from becoming too high.
Various types of insulin are available, and most are grouped by how long their effect lasts. There are rapid, regular, intermediate, and long-acting insulins.
Some people will use a long-acting insulin injection to maintain consistently low blood sugar levels. Some people may use short-acting insulin or a combination of insulin types. Whatever the type, a person will usually check their blood glucose levels using a fingerstick.
This method of checking blood sugar levels involves using a special, portable machine called a glucometer. A person with type I diabetes will then use the reading of their blood sugar level to determine how much insulin they need.
Self-monitoring is the only way a person can find out their blood sugar levels. Assuming the level from any physical symptoms that occur may be dangerous unless a person suspects extremely low glucose and thinks they need a rapid dose of glucose.
How much is too much?
Insulin helps people with diabetes live an active lifestyle. However, it can lead to serious side effects, especially if a person administers too much.
Excessive insulin can cause hypoglycemia, or extremely low blood sugar, and lead to nausea, sweating, and shaking.
It is essential that people measure insulin carefully and eat a consistent diet that balances blood sugar levels as much as possible.
In addition to insulin, other types of medication are available that can help a person to manage their condition.
For type 2 diabetes, a doctor may prescribe metformin in pill or liquid form.
It contributes to:
It can also help in weight loss. Having a healthy weight can reduce the impact of diabetes.
As well as diabetes, a person may also have other health risks, and they may need medication to control these. A doctor will advise the individual about their needs.