Diabetes, also known as Diabetes Mellitus, is a chronic health condition that occurs when blood glucose (sugar) is too high.
Blood glucose is the body’s main source of energy and comes from the food and beverages a person consumes. The pancreas produces insulin to help glucose move into the body’s cells to be used for energy.
Sometimes, the body does not make enough, or any, insulin or does not use it sufficiently. When this occurs, glucose builds up in the blood and can lead to serious health problems such as diabetes.
Have you recently been diagnosed with diabetes or know someone that has been diagnosed? Click on the tabs below to understand the three most common types of diabetes, prediabetes and complications associated with the disease.
Type 1 diabetes, formerly known as juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes, is usually first diagnosed in children, teenagers, or young adults, but can occur at any age. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas and destroys them. The pancreas then produces little or no insulin. A person who has type 1 diabetes must take insulin daily. Type 1 diabetes accounts for about 5 to 10 percent of diagnosed diabetes in the United States.
Type 1 diabetes symptoms include rapid onset (days to weeks) of:
•increased thirst and urination
• unexplained weight loss
*If not diagnosed quickly and treated with insulin, a person with type 1 diabetes can experience life-threatening complications of this disease.*
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of the disease , accounting for approximately 90% of people diagnosed with diabetes. People can develop type 2 diabetes at any age, even during childhood. Approximately, 80 percent of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight, and the condition is also associated with older age, family history of diabetes, previous history of gestational diabetes, physical inactivity, and certain ethnicities.
In patients diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, the pancreas is usually producing enough insulin, but the body cannot use the insulin effectively. This condition is called insulin resistance. After several years, insulin production may decrease, requiring a prescription of insulin that the patient must take daily. The symptoms of type 2 diabetes develops gradually and their onset is not as sudden as in type 1 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes symptoms may include gradual onset of:
• Fatigue or Nausea
• Frequent Urination
• Unusual Thirst
• Weight Loss
• Blurred Vision
• Frequent Infections
• Slow healing of wounds or sores
* Some people have no symptoms.*
Factors which increase the risk for type 2 diabetes:
• Age 45 years old or older.
• Family history of diabetes.
• African American, American Indian, Asian American, Pacific Islander, or Hispanic American/Latino ethnicity
• History of gestational diabetes or having given birth to at least one baby weighing more than 9 pounds.
• Physical inactivity or exercising fewer than three times a week.
Gestational diabetes affects about 4% of all pregnant women - about 135,000 cases of gestational diabetes are diagnosed in the United States each year. Although this form of diabetes usually goes away after the baby is born, a woman who has had gestational diabetes has a 20 to 50 percent chance of developing type 2 diabetes within 5 to 10 years. Like type 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes occurs more often in African Americans, American Indians, Hispanic Americans, and among women with a family history of diabetes.
Symptoms associated with Gestational Diabetes:
- Increased chance to develop preeclampsia, which is when you develop high blood pressure and too much protein is found in your urine during the second half of pregnancy.
- Increased risk for Cesarean section/C-section, because your baby may be too large.
- Increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes after birth.
- Increased risk of miscarriage or stillbirth.
Effects of Gestational Diabetes on the baby:
- Baby may be born too early
- Baby weighs too much, which can make delivery difficult and injure the baby
- Baby could have low blood glucose, also known as hypoglycemia, after birth
- Baby could have breathing problems
There are many things women can do to lower their chance of developing gestational diabetes.
Here are a few steps you can take:
- Exercise regularly
- Reduce fat and calorie intake
- Lose weight
- Lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels
Everyone’s experience with diabetes is different and the complications that are associated with the disease will not impact every person diagnosed. It’s important to know the complications associated with diabetes to minimize your risk of development, as much as possible.
Here are a few complications connected with diabetes:
- Heart Disease & Stroke – People with diabetes are 2 times more likely to have heart disease or stroke as people without diabetes
- Blindness and other eye problems – Diabetes retinopathy is the most common cause of revision loss in people with diabetes.
- Erectile Dysfunction - Men with diabetes are 3x more likely to have erectile dysfunction than men without the disease.
- Hearing loss – People with diabetes are 2x more likely to experience hearing loss than people without diabetes.
- Kidney Disease - About 1 in 3 adults with diabetes have chronic kidney disease.
- Nerve Damage – More than 30% of people with diabetes have autonomic neuropathy.
- Amputations – Increased risk for lower limb amputation than someone without diabetes.
- Infections – Increased risk for infections over someone without diabetes.
- Dental Problems – 1 in 5 cases of total tooth loss is linked to diabetes.
- Depression – People with diabetes are 2 to 3 times more likely to have depression than people without diabetes.
See the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse (NDIC) or the American Diabetes Association for more information on diabetes.
Prediabetes happens when a person's blood sugar level is higher than normal but not high enough to be classified as diabetes. Nearly 84 million American adults, more than 1 out of 3, have prediabetes. Of those with prediabetes, 90% don’t even know they have it.
Without healthy lifestyle changes most people with prediabetes will develop type 2 diabetes within five to six years.
Risk for Diabetes
- Being overweight or obese (BMI of 25kg/m2 or higher; higher than 23kg/m2 in Asian Americans ),
- Being inactive (Not getting regular physical activity),
- Being over the age of 45,
- Having a family history of diabetes (sibling, parent),
- Having gestational diabetes at any time in your life,
- History of cardiovascular disease (CVD),
- Having high blood pressure (hypertension),
- Having high cholesterol and/or high triglyceride levels,
- Being African American, Hispanic, Asian, Pacific Islander, or American Indian.
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There is no cure for diabetes, but for some types you may be able to prevent the onset. Type 2 diabetes and prediabetes may be prevented by developing a healthier lifestyle. Type 1 diabetes and in some case gestational diabetes cannot be prevented. For type 1 diabetes, the best strategy would be to carefully manage your diagnosis by incorporating healthy behaviors into your daily routine. Adopting healthy behaviors will prevent or delay complications associated with diabetes.
Tips on how to prevent or delay the onset of diabetes and associated complications:
- Increase your physical activity
- Control your weight
- Make healthier food and drink choices:
- Reduce sugar and refined carbs from your diet
- Increase water consumption; decrease consumption of beverages with high sugar and preservatives
- Watch your food portion sizes
- Quit smoking
- Limit your alcohol consumption
- Take a diabetes lifestyle change class
- Take your medications, as prescribed by a physician
- Monitor your blood glucose levels
- Maintain healthy levels for cholesterol and blood pressure in your body
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