Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs when there are high levels of sugar in your blood. The condition affects more than 20 million people in the United States alone. Here is a brief explanation of what happens in a patient's body when he or she is suffering from diabetes. When we eat, our digestive system coverts the food into a sugar called glucose, which is the fuel that our bodies use to operate. Glucose enters the blood stream and travels to all the cells in your body. While this is happening, our pancreas produces a chemical called insulin. Insulin helps our cells absorb the glucose.
Diabetes can refer to two different scenarios. In one instance the body doesn't produce enough insulin, so the glucose cannot be properly absorbed by their cells. This condition is called Type 1 diabetes and it is mostly found in children, teens, or young adults. In the second scenario a person's body may be producing enough insulin, but for some reason their cells resist it, causing the glucose levels to build up in their blood. This is called Type 2 diabetes and it mostly affects adults. It is also the most common form of diabetes.
In cases of Type 1 diabetes, the symptoms develop quickly and are generally apparent by the time a diagnosis is made. Type 2 diabetes develops over time, and it could be years before the patient even knows they have it.
A third type of diabetes is called gestational diabetes. Unlike the other two types, gestational diabetes is a temporary condition. It happens to some women during pregnancy when their placenta produces hormones that cause their cells to resist insulin.
With any case of diabetes, there are symptoms that appear sooner, and some that develop over time. Some of the earlier symptoms include:
The most common way for doctors to diagnose diabetes is by administering a urine or blood test to check sugar levels in your blood. Because some cases of diabetes don't initially show any symptoms, any person over the age of 45 should be regularly tested. It is also recommended that any children or adults dealing with weight problems also schedule periodic diabetes screenings.
Unfortunately there is no cure for Type 1 diabetes, and patients will have to take insulin injections the rest of their life to regulate the sugar levels in their blood.
Type 2 diabetes can often be controlled with lifestyle changes. One of the most common causes of Type 2 diabetes is being overweight, because an excess of fat cells in the body makes it more difficult for the other cells to absorb insulin properly. In these cases your doctor may recommend a program that includes a combination of medication, dieting, and exercise.
To keep a person's blood sugar at or near a normal level
To prevent future health problems that can happen in people with diabetes
One way to know if your treatment is working is to check your blood sugar level at home using a device called a "blood glucose monitor”.
Your doctor can also do a blood test called an "A1C” which checks how your blood sugar level has been over the past 2 to 3 months.
Some diabetes medicines can cause low blood sugar as a side effect. Symptoms of low blood sugar can include: