Diabetes is a chronic medical condition that affects how your body processes glucose, which is a type of sugar and the primary source of energy for cells. To understand diabetes, it’s helpful to know how glucose regulation normally works in the body:
More than 37 million US adults have diabetes, and 1 in 5 of them don’t know they have it.
Diabetes is the eighth leading cause of death in the United States.
Diabetes is the No. 1 cause of kidney failure, lower-limb amputations, and adult blindness.
In the last 20 years, the number of adults diagnosed with diabetes has more than doubled.
Type Of Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is a chronic medical condition characterized by the body’s inability to produce insulin, a hormone essential for regulating blood sugar (glucose) levels. Here are the key details about Type 1 diabetes:
Type 1 diabetes is primarily an autoimmune disorder, which means the immune system mistakenly targets and destroys the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. The exact cause of this autoimmune response is not fully understood but likely involves a combination of genetic and environmental factors, such as viral infections.
Unlike Type 2 diabetes, which often develops due to insulin resistance, Type 1 diabetes results in an absolute insulin deficiency. People with Type 1 diabetes are entirely dependent on external insulin sources to survive.
Type 1 diabetes often manifests in childhood or adolescence but can occur at any age. The onset is usually sudden, and symptoms can develop rapidly.
Common symptoms of Type 1 diabetes include excessive thirst, frequent urination, unexplained weight loss, fatigue, blurred vision, and extreme hunger. These symptoms result from the body’s inability to utilize glucose for energy.
Doctors typically diagnose Type 1 diabetes through blood tests that measure blood sugar levels and specific autoantibodies associated with autoimmune destruction of beta cells.
Managing Type 1 diabetes requires a lifelong commitment to insulin therapy. Treatment options include multiple daily insulin injections or insulin delivery through an insulin pump. The goal is to mimic the body’s natural insulin release to maintain stable blood sugar levels.
Blood Sugar Monitoring:
People with Type 1 diabetes need to monitor their blood sugar levels regularly, often through fingerstick blood tests or continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) systems. This information helps them adjust their insulin doses and maintain stable blood sugar levels.
Diet and Exercise:
Proper nutrition and regular physical activity are essential components of managing Type 1 diabetes. A balanced diet, carbohydrate counting, and meal planning help individuals match insulin doses to their food intake and activity level.
Poorly controlled Type 1 diabetes can lead to long-term complications, such as heart disease, kidney problems, nerve damage, vision impairment, and circulation issues. However, with diligent management and good blood sugar control, the risk of complications can be significantly reduced.
Research and Advancements:
Ongoing research in diabetes management, including the development of artificial pancreas systems and advances in insulin therapies, offers hope for improved quality of life and better disease management for those with Type 1 diabetes.
Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is a chronic metabolic disorder that affects how your body processes glucose, a form of sugar that serves as a primary source of energy. Here’s a detailed explanation of Type 2 diabetes:
Insulin and Glucose Regulation:
To understand Type 2 diabetes, it’s essential to know how the body normally regulates glucose. When you eat, your digestive system breaks down carbohydrates into glucose. This glucose enters the bloodstream, causing a rise in blood sugar levels. In response, the pancreas releases a hormone called insulin into the bloodstream.
Role of Insulin:
Insulin plays a critical role in regulating blood sugar. It acts as a key that allows glucose to enter cells, where it can be used for energy. When insulin is functioning correctly, it keeps blood sugar levels within a normal range.
In Type 2 diabetes, the body’s cells become resistant to the effects of insulin. This means that even though insulin is present, the cells do not respond as effectively as they should. As a result, glucose cannot enter cells efficiently, leading to elevated blood sugar levels.
Beta Cell Dysfunction:
In addition to insulin resistance, Type 2 diabetes often involves dysfunction of the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. Over time, these cells may produce less insulin, exacerbating the problem.
Several factors increase the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, including genetics, age, obesity, physical inactivity, and poor diet. Family history can also play a significant role.
The symptoms of Type 2 diabetes can develop gradually and may include increased thirst, frequent urination, fatigue, blurred vision, slow wound healing, and unexplained weight loss. Some people may not experience noticeable symptoms.
Type 2 diabetes is typically diagnosed through blood tests that measure fasting blood sugar levels or an oral glucose tolerance test. An A1c test may also be used to assess average blood sugar levels over the past few months.
Managing Type 2 diabetes involves lifestyle changes and, in some cases, medication. Treatment options may include:
Diet and Exercise:
A healthy diet and regular physical activity can help control blood sugar levels.
Some individuals may need oral medications that improve insulin sensitivity or stimulate insulin production.
In advanced cases, insulin injections may be necessary to maintain blood sugar control.
If left uncontrolled, Type 2 diabetes can lead to various health complications, such as heart disease, stroke, kidney problems, nerve damage, eye issues, and foot problems. Regular monitoring and management are crucial to prevent these complications.
Lifestyle changes, including maintaining a healthy weight, eating a balanced diet, and staying physically active, can reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, especially for those at higher risk.
In summary, Type 2 diabetes is a condition characterized by insulin resistance and impaired insulin production, leading to elevated blood sugar levels.
It is a chronic condition that requires ongoing management to prevent complications and maintain overall health. Lifestyle modifications are often the first line of treatment, with medications or insulin therapy as needed.
Early diagnosis and proactive management are essential for a better quality of life for individuals with Type 2 diabetes.
Causes of Diabetes
To understand diabetes, it’s important to understand how the body normally uses glucose.
How insulin works
Insulin is a hormone that comes from a gland behind and below the stomach (pancreas).
The pancreas releases insulin into the bloodstream.
The insulin circulates, letting sugar enter the cells.
Insulin lowers the amount of sugar in the bloodstream.
As the blood sugar level drops, so does the secretion of insulin from the pancreas.
The role of glucose
Glucose — a sugar — is a source of energy for the cells that make up muscles and other tissues.
Glucose comes from two major sources: food and the liver.
Sugar is absorbed into the bloodstream, where it enters cells with the help of insulin.
The liver stores and makes glucose.
When glucose levels are low, such as when you haven’t eaten in a while, the liver breaks down stored glycogen into glucose. This keeps your glucose level within a typical range.
The exact cause of most types of diabetes is unknown. In all cases, sugar builds up in the bloodstream. This is because the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin. Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes may be caused by a combination of genetic or environmental factors. It is unclear what those factors may be.