Diabetes Guide--Overview & Facts
DR.TARIK TORKI ORTHOPAEDIC AND FOOT CARE SPECILAIST
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Understanding Diabetes - the Basics
Diabetes, the most common disorder of the endocrine (hormone) system, occurs when blood sugar levels in the body consistently stay above normal. It affects more than 26 million people in the U.S. alone.
Diabetes is a disease brought on by either the body's inability to make insulin (type 1 diabetes) or by the body not responding to the effects of insulin (type 2 diabetes). It can also appear during pregnancy. Insulin is one of the main hormones that regulates blood sugar levels and allows the body to use sugar (called glucose) for energy. Talk with your doctor about the different types of diabetes and your risk for this disease.
In the United States, 54 million people over age 20 have blood sugar levels that are higher than normal but not high enough to be classified as diabetes. This is known as pre-diabetes, or impaired glucose tolerance. While people with pre-diabetes usually have no symptoms, it’s almost always present before a person develops type 2 diabetes. However, complications normally associated with diabetes, such as heart disease, can begin to develop even when a person has only pre-diabetes.
Once type 2 diabetes develops, symptoms include unusual thirst, a frequent need to urinate, blurred vision, or extreme fatigue. Talk to your doctor to see if you need to be tested for pre-diabetes. By identifying the signs of pre-diabetes before diabetes occurs, you can prevent type 2 diabetes all together and lower your risk of complications associated with this condition such as heart disease.
Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes occurs because the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas (called beta cells) are destroyed by the immune system. People with type 1 diabetes produce no insulin and must use insulin injections to control their blood sugar
Type 1 diabetes most commonly starts in people under the age of 20, but may occur at any age.
Type 2 Diabetes
With type 2 diabetes, the body continues to produce insulin although insulin production by the body may significantly decrease over time. The insulin the pancreas secretes with type 2 diabetes is either not enough or the body is unable to recognize the insulin and use it properly. When there isn't enough insulin or the insulin is not used as it should be, glucose can't get into the body's cells.
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes, affecting almost 18 million Americans. While most of these cases can be prevented, it remains for adults the leading cause of diabetes-related complications such as blindness, non-traumatic amputations, and chronic kidney failure requiring dialysis. Type 2 diabetes usually occurs in people over age 40 who are overweight, but it can occur in people who are not overweight. Sometimes referred to as "adult-onset diabetes," type 2 diabetes has started to appear more often in children because of the rise in obesity in young people.
Some people can manage their type 2 diabetes by controlling their weight, watching their diet, and exercising regularly. Others may also need to take a diabetes pill that helps their body use insulin better, or take insulin injections.
Often, doctors are able to detect the likelihood of type 2 diabetes before the condition actually occurs. Commonly referred to as pre-diabetes, this condition occurs when a person's blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough for a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.
Hormone changes during pregnancy can affect insulin's ability to work properly. The condition, called gestational diabetes, occurs in about 4% of all pregnancies.
Pregnant women who have an increased risk of developing gestational diabetes are those who are over 25 years old, are above their normal body weight before pregnancy, have a family history of diabetes, or are Hispanic, black, Native American, or Asian.
Screening for gestational diabetes is performed during pregnancy. Left untreated, gestational diabetes increases the risk of complications to both the mother and her unborn child.
Usually, blood sugar levels return to normal within six weeks of childbirth. However, women who have had gestational diabetes have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes later-in-life.
What Are the Symptoms of Diabetes?
The symptoms of type 1 diabetes often occur suddenly and can be severe. They include:
Increased hunger (especially after eating)
Unexplained weight loss (even though you are eating and feel hungry)
Fatigue (weak, tired feeling)
Labored, heavy breathing (Kussmaul respirations)
Loss of consciousness (rare)
The symptoms of type 2 diabetes may be the same as those listed above. Most often, there are no symptoms or a very gradual development of the above symptoms. Other symptoms may include:
Slow-healing sores or cuts
Itching of the skin (usually in the vaginal or groin area)
Recent weight gain
Numbness or tingling of the hands and feet
Impotence or erectile dysfunction
With gestational diabetes, there are often no symptoms. If you do have symptoms, they might include:
Pregnancy causes most women to have to urinate more often and to feel hungrier. So having these symptoms does not always mean that you have gestational diabetes. But it is important to get tested, because high blood sugar can cause problems for both you and your baby.
How Is Diabetes Treated?
Diabetes can't be cured, but it can be treated and controlled. The goals of managing diabetes are to:
Keep your blood sugar levels as near to normal as possible by balancing food intake with diabetes medication and physical activity.
Maintain your blood cholesterol and triglyceride (lipid) levels as near their normal ranges as possible by decreasing the total amount of fat to 30% or less of your total daily calories and by reducing saturated fat and cholesterol.
Control your blood pressure. Your blood pressure should not go over 130/80.
Slow or possibly prevent the development of diabetes-related health problems.
You hold the key to managing diabetes by:
Planning what you eat and following a balanced meal plan
Taking medicine, if prescribed, and closely following the guidelines on how and when to take it
Monitoring your blood glucose and blood pressure levels at home
Keeping your appointments with your health care providers and having laboratory tests as ordered by your doctor
Remember: What you do at home every day affects your blood sugar more than what your doctor can do every few months during your checkups