Diabetes is a disease that affects the body's ability to manage sugar levels in the blood and is caused by problems with the hormone insulin. Normally, the pancreas (an organ behind the stomach) releases insulin to help the body store and use the sugar and fat from the food you eat.
Over 18 million Americans have Diabetes. An additional 41 million people are considered "pre-diabetic" and are at risk for developing the disease. Though there is much promising research, a cure has not yet been developed. Diabetics need to work very closely with their physicians to manage their disease to stay healthy.
Type 1 Diabetes most commonly starts with people under 20 and occurs because the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas are destroyed. People with type 1 diabetes produce no insulin and must use insulin injections to control their blood glucose.
Type 2 Diabetes is the most common type of diabetes and usually occurs in people over 40, though the increasing obesity problem in America is causing it to develop in younger people. Type 2 diabetics produce insulin, but it might not be enough or their bodies are unable to recognize the insulin and use it properly.
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 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 glucose levels are higher than normal, but not high enough for a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.
Gestational Diabetes occurs in pregnancy when changes in hormone affect insulin's ability to work properly. The condition occurs in approximately 4% of all pregnancies.
Symptoms of Diabetes
The symptoms of type 1 diabetes often occur suddenly and can be severe. They include:
- Increased thirst.
- Increased hunger (especially after eating).
- Dry mouth.
- Frequent urination.
- Unexplained weight loss (even though you are eating and feel hungry).
- Fatigue (weak, tired feeling).
- Blurred vision.
- 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).
- Yeast infections.
- Recent weight gain.
- Numbness or tingling of the hands and feet.
- Impotence or erectile dysfunction.
If you have any of these symptoms, you should call your primary care physician to schedule a full examination.
You can control your diabetes by:
- Keeping your blood glucose levels as near to normal as possible by balancing your food intake with medication and exercise.
- Maintaining 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.
- Controlling your blood pressure. Your blood pressure should not go over 130/80.
- Slowing or possibly preventing the development of diabetes-related health problems.
- Planning what you eat and following a balanced meal plan
- Exercising regularly
- 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.