Facts About Diabetes
What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a metabolic disorder that means your body does not make enough insulin.
Or it means that your body is not able to use the insulin it makes. Your body needs
the hormone insulin to change blood sugar (glucose) into energy. Without insulin,
too much glucose collects in your blood. Diabetes may also be a result of other conditions.
These include genetic syndromes, chemicals, medicines, pancreatitis, infections, and
Diabetes can be 1 of 3 types: type 1, type 2, or gestational. All 3 are metabolic
disorders that affect the way the body uses (metabolizes) food to make glucose. Glucose
is the main source of fuel for the body.
What is prediabetes?
Type 2 diabetes is often preceded by prediabetes. In prediabetes, blood glucose levels
are higher than normal but not high enough to be defined as diabetes. But many people
with prediabetes develop type 2 diabetes within 10 years, according to the National
Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Prediabetes also raises the
risk for heart disease and stroke. You can delay or even prevent type 2 diabetes by
making lifestyle changes. These include losing extra weight if you are overweight
and getting more exercise. If you are overweight, losing 5% to 10% of your weight
can make a difference. For exercise, aim for at least 150 minutes a week of physical
activity. Don’t let more than 2 days go by without being active.
Experts recommend that all adults spend less time sitting and being inactive. This
is especially important if you have type 2 diabetes. When sitting for long periods
of time, get up for short sessions of light activity every 30 minutes.
How does diabetes affect blood glucose?
Insulin must be present for glucose to be able to move into the cells of the body.
Insulin is made by your pancreas. Normally it is readily available to help move glucose
into the cells.
When you have diabetes, your pancreas makes too little or no insulin. Or the cells
in your body don’t respond to the insulin that’s made. This causes a buildup of glucose
in the blood. The cells in your body, meanwhile, are starving for glucose and do not
have enough fuel to work as they should.
The 3 main types of diabetes are similar in the buildup of blood glucose because of
problems with insulin. But each has a different cause and treatment:
Type 1 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease. The body's immune system destroys the cells
in the pancreas that make insulin. This means that your body has no or only a small
amount of insulin. People with type 1 diabetes must take insulin every day in order
Type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes happens when the body cannot make enough insulin or is not able to
use it properly. Type 2 diabetes may be controlled with diet, exercise, and weight
loss, or may need oral medicines or insulin injections.
Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM). Gestational diabetes happens in pregnant women who have not been diagnosed with diabetes
in the past. In a woman with gestational diabetes, her body cannot effectively use
the insulin that is present. This type of diabetes goes away after delivery. If it
does not go away, it was not gestational diabetes but type 1 or 2 diabetes that started
during pregnancy. Gestational diabetes may be controlled with diet, exercise, and
attention to weight gain. Women with this type of diabetes may need to take medicines
to control their glucose. They may be at higher risk for type 2 diabetes later in
Complications of diabetes
Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death among Americans. Experts think that
many cases of diabetes are not reported as a condition leading to or causing death.
But each year, more than 200,000 deaths are reported as being caused by diabetes or
its complications. Complications of diabetes include eye problems and blindness, heart
disease, stroke, neurological problems, amputation, kidney disease, and impotence.
Except for gestational diabetes, diabetes is a chronic, incurable disease that affects
nearly every part of the body. It contributes to other serious diseases and can be
life-threatening. Diabetes must be managed under the care of a healthcare provider
throughout a person's life. The serious complications of diabetes can be prevented
or stopped from progressing with proper care.