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HomeHealth A-Z Diabetes
Diabetes
Diabetes Testing
Once diagnosed with a diabetic condition, most people will need daily monitoring of their glucose levels.

Diabetes

(dye-uh-BEE-teez)

Definition of Diabetes

Diabetes mellitus, usually referred to as diabetes, is a disease that occurs when the body cannot convert food into useable energy because the body either does not produce enough insulin or it is not able to properly use the insulin that is produced.

Description of Diabetes

Diabetes is a serious medical condition that can cause many health problems.  There are many types of diabetes, but the two main types are type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes.  While there are some differences between them, both types are characterized by the body's inability to properly use blood glucose (sugar) for energy.  Insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, controls blood sugar levels and moves blood glucose from the blood to the muscles and other tissues in the body where it is needed.  When the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or the body does not properly use the insulin that is produced, sugar builds up in the bloodstream, which is harmful to the body.

Type 1 diabetes, previously called "juvenile diabetes" or "insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus," is a medical condition that occurs when the pancreas stops producing insulin.  Type 1 diabetes accounts for five to ten percent of the diagnosed cases of diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes, previously called "adult-onset diabetes" or "noninsulin-dependent diabetes mellitus," is the most common type of diabetes.  While people with type 2 diabetes still produce insulin, either their bodies do not produce enough insulin or their bodies do not properly use the insulin produced.  Type 2 diabetes accounts for ninety to ninety-five percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes.

Causes and Risk Factors of Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes has no known causes, but many suspect risk factors to be autoimmune, genetic, or environmental in nature.  Type 1 diabetes usually develops during childhood, but it can occur at any age.

Type 2 diabetes most commonly develops in people who are overweight.  Though it usually develops in overweight adults, an increasing number of overweight children and adolescents are also developing the disease.  Because type 2 diabetes develops over time, many people who have type 2 diabetes are not even aware that they have the disease.  Risk factors include a family history of diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, being overweight, ethnicity, being age 45 years or older, lack of regular exercise, or having a history of vascular disease, polycystic ovary disease, or gestational (pregnancy) diabetes.

Symptoms of Diabetes

The symptoms of type 1 diabetes include increased thirst or hunger, frequent urination, unexplained weight loss, dry mouth, fatigue, blurred vision, and headaches.

The symptoms of type 2 diabetes include the same symptoms as type 1 diabetes, as well as recent weight gain, numbness and tingling of the hands and feet, decreased vision, slow-healing sores or cuts, itching of the skin (usually in the genital area), frequent yeast infections, impotency, and velvety dark skin changes of the neck, armpit, and groin.

Diagnosis of Diabetes

If diabetes is suspected, your doctor will prescribe a blood glucose test to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment of Diabetes

Treatment of diabetes focuses on regulating blood sugar levels in an effort to reduce the harmful effects of the disease.  Diabetes can cause health problems ranging from numbness to blindness to diabetic coma.  Other complications include heart disease, stroke, liver and kidney damage, nerve and small artery damage.  It can affect the white blood cells ability to fight infections and can make amputation of lower limbs necessary.  Most of these issues can be avoided by maintaining normal glucose levels thru out a lifetime.

The only treatment for type 1 diabetes is daily insulin replacement.  Type 1 diabetes is a life-long disease, there is no cure.  It is also important to follow a specific diet plan, exercise daily, and test blood sugar several times a day in order to regulate blood sugar levels.

There are several treatments available for type 2 diabetes.  Treatment options include insulin replacement, oral medication to facilitate insulin production, losing weight, healthy eating, daily exercise, and regular blood glucose monitoring.

Prevention of Diabetes

There are no known ways to prevent type 1 diabetes from developing and there is no way to cure it once it has developed.

Type 2 diabetes may often be prevented and controlled by losing weight if overweight and by maintaining a healthy weight thru diet and exercise.

External Resources

American Diabetes Association

National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion

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