Diabetes can strike anyone, from any walk of life. And it does, in numbers that are increasing dramatically. Currently, more than 30 million Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes. Worldwide, more than 422 million people have diabetes.
Diabetes is a serious condition that causes higher than normal blood sugar levels. Diabetes occurs when your body cannot make or effectively use its own insulin, a hormone made by special cells in the pancreas called islets. Insulin serves as a “key” to open your cells, to allow the sugar (glucose) from the food you eat to enter. Then, your body uses that glucose for energy.
But with diabetes, several major things can go wrong to cause diabetes. Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are the most common forms of the disease, but there are also other kinds, such as gestational diabetes, which occurs during pregnancy.
What is Type 1 Diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes (previously known as juvenile diabetes) is the most severe form of the disease. About 5-10% of people who have diabetes have Type 1 diabetes, or insulin-dependent diabetes. Because it most commonly develops in children and teenagers, Type 1 diabetes has also been called juvenile diabetes. But it is possible for people of all ages to develop Type 1 diabetes.
In Type 1 diabetes, the body’s immune system attacks the insulin-producing islet cells in the pancreas. The islet cells sense glucose in the blood and produce the right amount of insulin to normalize blood sugars. This attack on the body’s own cells is known as autoimmune disease, and scientists are not sure why this attack occurs.
The result is that once the insulin-producing cells are destroyed, a person can no longer produce their own insulin. Without insulin, there is no “key.” So, the sugar stays in the blood and builds up. As a result, the body’s cells starve. And, if left untreated, high blood sugar levels can damage eyes, kidneys, nerves, and the heart, and can also lead to coma and death.
There is currently no cure for Type 1 diabetes. It must be treated with a daily regimen of insulin therapy for the patient’s entire life, but it is a condition that can be managed by living a healthy lifestyle with proper diet and exercise. Type 1 diabetes patients can live a normal, fulfilling life.
What are the Warning Signs of Type 1 Diabetes?
The onset of type 1 diabetes generally happens very quickly. The following symptoms may appear suddenly and are too severe to overlook:
•Increased urination (bed-wetting may occur in children who have already been toilet trained)
•Rapid and unexplained weight loss
•Extreme weakness or fatigue
•Nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain
•Unpleasant breath odor
Type 1 Diabetes Treatment
Type 1 diabetes requires daily insulin injections or the use of an insulin pump or similar device. This outside source of insulin now serves as the “key” – bringing glucose to the body’s cells. The challenge with taking insulin is that it’s difficult to know precisely how much insulin to take. The amount is based on many factors, including:
• Emotions and general health
These factors change a lot throughout every day. So, deciding on what dose of insulin to take is a complicated balancing act. If you take too much insulin, then your blood glucose can drop to a dangerously low level. This can cause a potentially life-threatening condition known as hypoglycemia.
If you take too little insulin, your blood glucose can rise to a dangerously high level. Your cells are not getting the sugar, or energy, they need. This is called hyperglycemia. As mentioned above, high blood glucose levels can lead to long-term complications and may be life-threatening.
Today, a wide range of computerized diabetes devices are available to help people better manager their blood glucose levels, while research towards a cure for diabetes continues.
What is Type 2 Diabetes?
The most common form of diabetes is called Type 2 diabetes, or non-insulin dependent diabetes. About 90% of people with diabetes have type 2. Type 2 diabetes is also called adult onset diabetes, since it typically develops after age 35. However, a growing number of younger people are now developing Type 2 diabetes.
People with Type 2 diabetes are able to produce some of their own insulin. Often, it’s not enough. Sometimes the insulin will try to serve as the “key” to open the body’s cells to allow the glucose to enter. But the key won’t work– the cells won’t open. This is called insulin resistance. Type 2 diabetes is typically tied to people who are overweight with a sedentary lifestyle.
What are the Warning Signs of Type 2 Diabetes?
The symptoms of Type 2 diabetes are similar to those of Type 1 diabetes. But the onset of Type 2 diabetes is usually slower and the symptoms are not as noticeable as those for Type 1 diabetes. For these reasons, many people mistakenly overlook the warning signs. They also might think that the symptoms are the signs of other conditions, like aging, overworking or hot weather.
Type 2 Diabetes Treatment
Treatment for Type 2 diabetes focuses on improving ways to better use the insulin the body already produces to normalize blood glucose levels. First line treatment programs for type 2 diabetes focuses on lifestyle changes – diet, exercise and weight loss. If blood glucose levels remain high, medications are used to help the body use its own insulin more efficiently. In some cases, insulin injections may be necessary.