Everything You Should Know About Diabetes

December 3, 2021

Diabetes happens when your body isn’t able to take up sugar (glucose) into its cells and use it for energy. This results in a buildup of extra sugar in your bloodstream

Poorly controlled diabetes can lead to serious consequences, causing damage to a wide range of your body’s organs and tissues – including your heart, kidneys, eyes and nerves.

If you have diabetes:

Your pancreas doesn’t make any insulin or enough insulin.

Or

Your pancreas makes insulin but your body’s cells don’t respond to it and can’t use it as it normally should.

If glucose can’t get into your body’s cells, it stays in your bloodstream and your blood glucose level rises.

MAJOR DIFFERENT TYPES OF DIABETES 

Type 1 diabetes: 

This type is an autoimmune disease, meaning your body attacks itself. In this case, the insulin-producing cells in your pancreas are destroyed. Up to 10% of people who have diabetes have Type 1.

 It’s usually diagnosed in children and young adults (but can develop at any age). It was once better known as “juvenile” diabetes. 

Type 2 diabetes:

 With this type, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or your body’s cells don’t respond normally to the insulin. This is the most common type of diabetes. Up to 95% of people with diabetes have Type 2. It usually occurs in middle-aged and older people. 

Prediabetes: 

This type is the stage before Type 2 diabetes. Your blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be officially diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.

Gestational diabetes:

 This type develops in some women during their pregnancy. Gestational diabetes usually goes away after pregnancy. However, if you have gestational diabetes you’re at higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes later on in life.

RISK FACTORS FOR PEOPLE WITH TYPE 1 DIABETES 

Factors that increase your risk differ depending on the type of diabetes you ultimately develop.

Risk factors for Type 1 diabetes include

  • Having a family history (parent or sibling) of Type 1 diabetes.
  • Injury to the pancreas (such as by infection, tumor, surgery or accident).
  • Presence of autoantibodies (antibodies that mistakenly attack your own body’s tissues or organs).
  • Physical stress (such as surgery or illness).
  • Exposure to illnesses caused by viruses.

Risk factors for prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes include:

  • Family history (parent or sibling) of prediabetes or Type 2 diabetes.
  • Being African-American, Hispanic, Native American, Asian-American race or Pacific Islander.
  • Being overweight.
  • Having high blood pressure.
  • Having low HDL cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol) and high triglyceride level.
  • Being physically inactive.
  • Being age 45 or older.
  • Having gestational diabetes or giving birth to a baby weighing more than 9 pounds.
  • Having polycystic ovary syndrome.
  • Having a history of heart disease or stroke.
  • Being a smoker.

Risk factors for gestational diabetes include:

  • Family history (parent or sibling) of prediabetes or Type 2 diabetes.
  • Being African-American, Hispanic, Native American or Asian-American.
  • Being overweight before your pregnancy.
  • Being over 25 years of age.

CAUSES OF DIABETES 

The cause of diabetes, regardless of the type, is having too much glucose circulating in your bloodstream. However, the reason why your blood glucose levels are high differs depending on the type of diabetes.

Causes of Type 1 diabetes: This is an immune system disease. Your body attacks and destroys insulin-producing cells in your pancreas. Without insulin to allow glucose to enter your cells, glucose builds up in your bloodstream. Genes may also play a role in some patients. Also, a virus may trigger the immune system attack.

Cause of Type 2 diabetes and prediabetes: Your body’s cells don’t allow insulin to work as it should to let glucose into its cells. Your body’s cells have become resistant to insulin. Your pancreas can’t keep up and make enough insulin to overcome this resistance. Glucose levels rise in your bloodstream.

Gestational diabetes: Hormones produced by the placenta during your pregnancy make your body’s cells more resistant to insulin. Your pancreas can’t make enough insulin to overcome this resistance. Too much glucose remains in your bloodstream.

COMPLICATIONS OF DIABETES 

If your blood glucose level remains high over a long period of time, your body’s tissues and organs can be seriously damaged. Some complications can be life-threatening over time.

Complications include:

  • Cardiovascular issues including coronary artery disease, chest pain, heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries).
  • Nerve damage (neuropathy) that causes numbing and tingling that starts at toes or fingers then spreads.
  • Kidney damage (nephropathy) that can lead to kidney failure or the need for dialysis or transplant.
  • Eye damage (retinopathy) that can lead to blindness; cataracts, glaucoma.
  • Foot damage including nerve damage, poor blood flow and poor healing of cuts and sores.
  • Skin infections.
  • Erectile dysfunction.
  • Hearing loss.
  • Depression.
  • Dementia.
  • Dental problems.

DIAGNOSIS OF DIABETES 

Diabetes is diagnosed and managed by checking your glucose level in a blood test. There are three tests that can measure your blood glucose level: fasting glucose test, random glucose test and A1c test.

  • Fasting plasma glucose test
  • Random plasma glucose test
  • A1c test
  • Oral glucose tolerance test
  • Gestational diabetes tests: There are two blood glucose tests if you are pregnant. With a glucose challenge test, you drink a sugary liquid and your glucose level is checked one hour later. You don’t need to fast before this test. 
  • Type 1 diabetes: If your healthcare provider suspects Type 1 diabetes, blood and urine samples will be collected and tested.

Where to get help

  • Your doctor
  • Local community health center
  • Diabetes specialist
  • Diabetes educator

Sources

Diabetes – Better Health Channel

What is diabetes (idf.org)

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