5 Frequently Asked Questions About Diabetes

What You Need To Know About Diabetes

Diabetes is a common condition. Recent statistics show that 29 million cases are currently in existence, and a total of 8.1 million of those people have yet to be diagnosed. The prevalence increases with age, so approximately one out of every four people over the age of 65 suffers from the condition.

However, the 1 in 10 with age 20 to 64 illustrates the prevalence of this disease no matter the age of the sufferer. There are approximately 1.8 million new cases of diabetes diagnosed each year in the US. The Centers For Disease Control estimates that 1 in 3 babies born in the year 2000 will have diabetes.

1What Is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a disorder of sugar metabolism. Sugar isn't properly used or stored so that glucose, the main sugar in the body, goes up, causing many health problems. There are two main types of diabetes that both result in an elevated glucose level: type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

2What Is Type 1 Diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the islet cells in the pancreas, normally responsible for producing insulin that reduces blood sugar cannot be made. The islet cells in effect are not functioning, so that large increases in blood sugar are seen. This type of diabetes usually begins in childhood or young adulthood and lasts a lifetime.

Moreover, type 1 diabetes occurs because of a lack of insulin. Its sufferers are insulin-dependent, which means they need to take insulin for their entire lives. Also, there is no cure for this condition at this time.

3What Is Type 2 Diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes can occur at any age, but its incidence increases with age. Unlike type 1 diabetes, there is usually plenty of insulin to go around (at least at the beginning of the disease). But, the insulin is unable to put the glucose into the cells, so they can be used for metabolism. Hence, the glucose level in the blood rises.

This disorder begins with what's called "insulin resistance" because the cells are resistant to the insulin trying to put sugar into the cells. In the beginning, the glucose levels are normal, and the person is "pre-diabetic." As the disease progresses, the glucose levels increase, and the person can develop blood sugar levels as high as type 1 diabetes. Unlike type 1, type 2 is mainly attributed to poor lifestyles, like diet and exercise. Obesity, belly fat, and lack of exercise are three of the biggest risk factors for the disease.

4What Are The Treatment Methods?

The two types of diabetes are treated very differently. In type 1 diabetes, the only logical treatment is to replace the insulin that is missing in the person's body. Insulin comes in short, medium, and long-acting varieties. People with diabetes take differing amounts of these insulin types to keep their blood sugar within a normal range, usually less than 180 mg/dL throughout the day.

In type 2 diabetes, the problem is not one of having a lack of insulin. Instead, medication has been created to help insulin put sugar into the cells. There are various medications being used for treatment. However, medication alone is not enough to manage type 2 diabetes; it also takes an appropriate diet and exercise, or else blood glucose levels can easily become out of control.

5What Are The Symptoms Of Diabetes?

Many people with diabetes, especially type 2 diabetes, have no symptoms unless they have markedly elevated blood sugars. The diabetes is instead diagnosed by having blood glucose elevated on a routine doctor's exam or a Hemoglobin A1C blood test. Nonetheless, diabetes does have symptoms, and it's worth paying attention to this list of symptoms as some of them can be quite subtle.

These diabetes symptoms include feeling thirsty all the time, urinating more than usual, having an increased appetite, and weight loss even when you are eating enough (this is seen most often in type 1 diabetes and is a sign that the cells themselves are starving from a lack of glucose, which is instead circulating in the bloodstream). Other symptoms are being extremely tired, having blurry vision, having pain, and tingling or numbness in the feet and possibly the hands (this is often seen with untreated type 2 diabetes because the elevated blood glucose has begun to damage the nerve endings in the extremities). If you have any of these symptoms or if diabetes runs in the family, you should see your doctor about being tested for diabetes.

About Author

Jackie Wing

Jackie Wing is an Alaska native, who enjoys snowboarding more than is probably socially acceptable. She lives in Anchorage with her two dogs Reese and Peanut, or as she likes to call them "Thing 1" and "Thing 2."