If you have diabetes, your body cannot properly process and use glucose from the food you eat. There are different types of diabetes, each with different causes, but they all share the common problem of having too much glucose in the bloodstream. Treatments include medications and / or insulins. Some types of diabetes can be prevented by adopting a healthy lifestyle.
What is the diabetes?
Diabetes occurs when your body cannot absorb sugar (glucose) into your cells and use it for energy. This results in a build-up of additional sugar in the bloodstream.
Poorly controlled diabetes can have serious consequences and damage a wide range of organs and tissues in the body, including the heart, kidneys, eyes, and nerves.
Why is my blood glucose level high? How did this happen?
The digestion process includes breaking down the food you eat into several different nutrient sources. When you eat carbohydrates (eg, bread, rice, pasta), your body breaks them down into sugar (glucose). When glucose is in your bloodstream, you need help, a “key,” to get to its final destination where it is used, which is inside the cells of your body (cells make up the tissues and organs of your body). This helper or “key” is insulin.
Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas, an organ located behind the stomach. Your pancreas releases insulin into your bloodstream. Insulin acts as the “key” that opens the “door” to the cell wall, allowing glucose to enter the cells of your body. Glucose provides the “fuel” or energy that tissues and organs need to function properly.
What are the different types of diabetes?
The types of diabetes are:
Type 1 diabetes: This type is an autoimmune disease, which means that your body attacks itself. In this case, the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas are destroyed. Up to 10% of people with diabetes have type 1. It is usually diagnosed in children and young adults (but it can develop at any age). It was once better known as “juvenile” diabetes. People with type 1 diabetes need to take insulin shots every day. This is why it is also called insulin-dependent diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes: With this type, your body does not make enough insulin or the cells in your body do not respond normally to 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. Other common names for type 2 include adult-onset diabetes and insulin-resistant diabetes. Your parents or grandparents may have called it “having a hint of sugar.”
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 pregnancy. Gestational diabetes usually clears up after pregnancy, however, if you have gestational diabetes, you have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
Less common types of diabetes include:
Monogenic Diabetes Syndromes: These are rare inherited forms of diabetes that account for up to 4% of all cases. Examples are neonatal diabetes and mature-onset diabetes in young people.
Cystic fibrosis-related diabetes: This is a form of diabetes specific to people with this disease.
Drug- or Chemical-Induced Diabetes – Examples of this type occur after organ transplantation, after HIV / AIDS treatment, or are associated with the use of glucocorticoid steroids.
Diabetes insipidus is a rare disease that causes the kidneys to produce a large amount of urine.
How common is diabetes?
About 34.2 million people of all ages, about 1 in 10, have diabetes in the U.S. About 7.3 million adults age 18 and older (about 1 in 5) are unaware they have diabetes ( just under 3% of all adults in the US The number of people diagnosed with diabetes increases with age More than 26% of adults age 65 and older (about 1 in 4) have diabetes.
Who has diabetes? Which are the risk factors?
The factors that increase your risk vary depending on the type of diabetes you eventually develop.
Risk factors for type 1 diabetes include:
- Having a family history (parents or siblings) of type 1 diabetes.
- Injury to the pancreas (such as from 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 diseases caused by viruses.
Risk factors for prediabetes and type 2 diabetes include:
- Family history (parents or siblings) of prediabetes or type 2 diabetes.
- Be African American, Hispanic, Native American, Asian American, or Pacific Islander.
- Have high blood pressure
- Have low HDL cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol) and high triglyceride levels.
- Being physically inactive.
- Be 45 years of age or older.
- Have gestational diabetes or give birth to a baby that weighs more than 9 pounds.
- Have polycystic ovary syndrome.
- Having a history of heart disease or stroke.
- Be a smoker
Risk factors for gestational diabetes include:
- Family history (parents or siblings) of prediabetes or type 2 diabetes.
- Be African American, Hispanic, Native American, or Asian-American.
- Being overweight before pregnancy.
- Be over 25 years old.
What causes diabetes?
The cause of diabetes, regardless of type, is having too much glucose circulating in the bloodstream. However, the reason why your blood glucose levels are high varies depending on the type of diabetes.
Causes of type 1 diabetes: This is a disease of the immune system. Your body attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells in your pancreas. Without insulin to allow glucose to enter your cells, glucose builds up in your bloodstream. Genes can also play a role in some patients. Also, a virus can trigger an attack by the immune system.
Cause of type 2 diabetes and prediabetes: Your body’s cells do not allow insulin to work as it should to allow glucose to enter your cells. The cells in your body have become resistant to insulin. Your pancreas cannot keep up and produce enough insulin to overcome this resistance. Glucose levels rise in your bloodstream.
Gestational diabetes: Hormones produced by the placenta during pregnancy make the cells in your body more resistant to insulin. Your pancreas cannot make enough insulin to overcome this resistance. Too much glucose remains in the bloodstream.
What are the symptoms of diabetes?
Symptoms of diabetes include:
- Increased thirst.
- Feeling of weakness and tiredness.
- Blurry vision.
- Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet.
- Slow-healing sores or cuts.
- Unplanned weight loss.
- Frequent urination
- Frequent unexplained infections.
- Dry mouth.
In women: dry, itchy skin and frequent yeast infections or urinary tract infections.
In men: Decreased sexual desire, erectile dysfunction, decreased muscle strength.
Symptoms of type 1 diabetes: Symptoms can develop quickly, within a few weeks or months. Symptoms start when you are young, as a child, teenager, or young adult. Additional symptoms include nausea, vomiting, or stomach aches and yeast infections or urinary tract infections.
Prediabetes and Type 2 Diabetes Symptoms: You may not have any symptoms or may not notice them as they develop slowly over several years. Symptoms usually begin to develop as an adult, but prediabetes and type 2 diabetes are increasing in all age groups.
Gestational diabetes: Usually you will not notice symptoms. Your obstetrician will test you for gestational diabetes between 24 and 28 weeks of your pregnancy.