What is Diabetes?

With diabetes being on such a dramatic increase in the United States, it’s helpful to understand what diabetes is, and what to look for. For over 5 million people, they have diabetes and don’t even know it. Diabetes is a serious health issue. It is the sixth leading cause of death in this country, and there is no cure for Type 2 Diabetes at this time.

How do we get diabetes?

Whenever we eat our food, the body goes to work in taking the food and changing it into energy. It does this by turning it into sugar, or glucose, while digesting it. This is what gives us energy. During this process, the pancreas releases insulin which controls the amount of sugar in our bloodstream. This is what keeps us healthy. Without this insulin, the sugar remains in our bloodstream, creating several health related problems. Among them are possibility of blindness, kidney failure, nerve damage, and other organ function problems. Finally, left untreated, it can cause death. This is why it is so important to get tested regularly to be sure your blood sugar levels remain safe.

What are the different types of diabetes?

Type 1 Diabetes – This form of diabetes is also known as juvenile diabetes since it is most commonly found in young children. Type 1 Diabetes is found in only 5-10% of all diabetic cases. It is diagnosed when the pancreas fails to produce any insulin at all, or too little of an amount to do the body any good.

With Type 1 Diabetes, patients must have a daily injection of insulin. Without these daily injections they will not survive.

Type 2 Diabetes – This form of diabetes is the most common, with 90-95% of all forms of diabetes being Type 2.

With Type 2 Diabetes, the pancreas doesn’t continue to produce enough insulin, or the cells no longer respond to the insulin any longer. In many cases, Type 2 Diabetes can be controlled through diet and exercise. If this fails to produce the necessary results, oral medication can be prescribed.

Gestational Diabetes – This form of diabetes is found only in women who are pregnant. Similar to Type 2, it usually strikes 2-7% of all pregnancies. It is caused by the pancreas not being able to keep up in delivering insulin to control the glucose level. This form of diabetes will most always go away after pregnancy, but there is an increased risk of both mother and baby becoming diabetic later on in life.

Doctors will generally test for Gestational Diabetes around the 26th week of pregnancy, which is when insulin resistance usually starts.

Pre-Diabetes – Also known as borderline diabetes, this is diagnosed when patients are showing signs of increased levels of blood sugar and are beginning to have difficulty in keeping them down. Pre-diabetes affects over 40 million people, which is incredible when you stop to think about it. If left untreated, pre-diabetes will turn into Type 2 Diabetes in most cases. Those with pre-diabetes are urged to alter their diets and begin to get on an exercise routine of some kind. In addition, they should have their blood sugar levels tested at least every 3 months.

As mentioned earlier, there is no known cure for Type 2 Diabetes. The only cure available for those patients with Type 1 Diabetes is to receive a pancreas transplant. Of course, this can lead to other problems such as rejection by the body, and the effects of the surgery itself. Science is continuing to work on other ways of treating diabetes including the transplanting of insulin producing cells within the pancreas, and even making an artificial pancreas.

Other projects include the production of an inhalation device that puts out insulin instead of the daily injections. These advancements are on the horizon for those who suffer from this awful disease. I would urge everyone to check their blood sugar levels, know what it is, and continue to educate yourself on diabetes. It is one of the best things you can do for your health.

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