What is Diabetes?

October 6, 2008

Tired of “fishing” for information about Diabetes? Let Healthyfishies help you “catch” the answers you are looking for…

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease in which the body’s pancreas either does not produce enough insulin or the body is unable to properly use the insulin it produces. Insulin is a hormone that is needed to convert sugar, starches, proteins and other food into the energy needed for our daily lives. While the cause of diabetes continues to be a mystery, research shows that both genetics and environmental factors appear to play major roles.

There are 20.8 million children and adults in the United States (approximately 7% of the population) who have diabetes. While an estimated 14.6 million have been diagnosed with diabetes, unfortunately, 6.2 million people (or nearly one-third) are unaware that they have the disease. Sadly, this number continues to grow.

There are several forms of diabetes, including:

* Type 1 diabetes, often called juvenile or insulin-dependent diabetes
* Type 2 diabetes, often called adult or non-insulin-dependent diabetes
* Gestational diabetes, which occurs during pregnancy.
* Pre-Diabetes, often occures before Type 2 diabetes.

For all types of diabetes, the metabolism of carbohydrates (including sugars such as glucose), proteins, and fats is altered.

What is Type 1 Diabetes?

Alternative names: Insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus; Juvenile onset diabetes; Diabetes Mellitus

Type 1 diabetes is a chronic (lifelong) autoimmune disease. Autoimmune diseases result when the body’s system for fighting infection (the immune system) turns against a part of the body. In diabetes, the immune system attacks the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas and destroys them. The pancreas then produces little or no insulin, the hormone that enables the cells of the body to use glucose.¬† Glucose is what enters the cells and fuels them… Without glucose there is no energy for the cells. A person who has type 1 diabetes must take insulin daily to live. Diabetes is a life-long disease for which there is not yet a cure known to the medical community.

At present, scientists do not know exactly what causes the body’s immune system to attack the beta cells, but they believe that autoimmune, genetic, and environmental factors, possibly viruses, are involved. Type 1 diabetes accounts for about 5 to 10 percent of diagnosed diabetes in the United States. It develops most often in children and young adults, but can appear at any age.

Symptoms of type 1 diabetes usually develop over a short period, although beta cell destruction can begin years earlier. Symptoms include increased thirst and urination, constant hunger, weight loss, blurred vision, and extreme fatigue. If not diagnosed and treated with insulin, a person with type 1 diabetes can lapse into a life-threatening diabetic coma, also known as diabetic ketoacidosis.

What is Pre-Diabetes?

Pre-Diabetes exists when a person’s blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. Before people develop type 2 diabetes, they almost always have pre-diabetes. There are 54 million people in the United States who have pre-diabetes. Recent research has shown that during pre-diabetes, some long-term damage to the body, especially the heart and circulatory system, may already be occurring. But, research has also shown that if you take action to manage your blood glucose, start an exercise program, and adopt healthier eating habits, you can delay or even prevent type 2 diabetes.

What is Type 2 Diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes, about 90 to 95 percent of people with diabetes have type 2. This form of diabetes is associated with older age (type 2 diabetes is increasingly being diagnosed in children and adolescents), obesity, family history of diabetes, history of gestational diabetes, physical inactivity, and ethnicity. About 80 percent of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight.

When type 2 diabetes is diagnosed, the pancreas is usually producing enough insulin, but the body is unable to use the insulin effectively, a condition called insulin resistance. After several years, the insulin production decreases. The result is the same as for type 1 diabetes. Glucose builds up in the blood and the body’s cells are unable to use it for energy.

The symptoms of type 2 diabetes develop gradually and is not as sudden as in type 1 diabetes. Symptoms may include fatigue or nausea, frequent urination, unusual thirst, weight loss, blurred vision, frequent infections, and slow healing of wounds or sores. Some people have very few symptoms, making it difficult to pinpoint the onset of type 2 diabetes.

What is Gestational Diabetes?

Gestational diabetes develops only during pregnancy. Like type 2 diabetes, it occurs more often in African Americans, American Indians, Hispanic Americans, and among women with a family history of diabetes. Women who have had gestational diabetes have a 20 to 50 percent chance of developing type 2 diabetes within 5 to 10 years.

Being diagnosed with diabetes may be scary and uncertain but please remember that people with diabetes can still live long, healthy, happy lives. Proper nutrition, exercise, and regular checkups make living with this disease a whole lot easier.

For more information like this, please visit  Healthyfishies

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Entry Filed under: Disease Information. Tags: diabetes, gestational, Insulin, juvenile, Mellitus, Type 1, Type 2.

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