What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs either when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces. Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar. Hyperglycemia, or raised normal blood sugar, is a common effect of uncontrolled diabetes and over time leads to serious damage to many of the body’s systems, especially the nerves and blood vessels.
Types of Diabetes
Diabetes mellitus, commonly known as diabetes, is a metabolic disease that causes high blood sugar. The hormone insulin moves sugar from the blood into your cells to be stored or used for energy. With diabetes, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t effectively use the insulin it does make.
Untreated high blood sugar from diabetes can damage your nerves, eyes, kidneys, and other organs.
There are a few different types of diabetes:
- Type 1 Diabetes is an autoimmune disease. The immune system attacks and destroys cells in the pancreas, where insulin is made. It’s unclear what causes this attack. About 10 percent of people with diabetes have this type.
- Type 2 Diabetes occurs when your body becomes resistant to insulin, and sugar builds up in your blood.
- Prediabetes occurs when your blood sugar is higher than normal, but it’s not high enough for a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.
- Gestational diabetes is high blood sugar during pregnancy. Insulin-blocking hormones produced by the placenta cause this type of diabetes.
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A rare condition called diabetes insipid we are not related to diabetes mellitus, although it has a similar name. It’s a different condition in which your kidneys remove too much fluid from your body.
Diabetes symptoms vary depending on how much your blood sugar is elevated. Some people, especially those with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, may not experience symptoms initially. In type 1 diabetes, symptoms tend to come on quickly and be more severe.
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Some of the signs and symptoms of type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes are:
- Increased thirst
- Frequent urination
- Extreme hunger
- Unexplained weight loss
- Presence of ketones in the urine (ketones are a byproduct of the breakdown of muscle and fat that happens when there’s not enough available insulin)
- Blurred vision
- Slow-healing sores
- Frequent infections, such as gums or skin infections and vaginal infections
Type 1 Diabetes can develop at any age, though it often appears during childhood or adolescence. Type 2 diabetes, the more common type, can develop at any age, though it’s more common in people older than 40.
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What Causes Diabetes
Type 1 Diabetes
In type 1 diabetes, your body doesn’t make insulin. This is because the immune system attacks and destroys the cells in the pancreas that make the insulin. Doctors aren’t sure why this happens.
Type 2 Diabetes
When you eat, your body changes most of the food you digest into glucose (a form of sugar). A hormone called insulin allows this glucose to enter all the cells of your body. There it is used for energy. Insulin is produced by the pancreas. In someone who has type 2 diabetes, the pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin or the body’s cells can’t use insulin properly (called insulin resistance). This causes glucose to build up in your blood instead of moving into the cells. Too much glucose in the blood can lead to serious health problems that damage the blood vessels, nerves, heart, eyes, and kidneys.
Risk factors for Type 1 Diabetes are not as well understood as those for type 2 diabetes. Family history is a known risk factor for type 1 diabetes. Other risk factors can include having certain infections or diseases of the pancreas.
Risk factors for Type 2 Diabetes and prediabetes are many. The following can raise your risk of developing type 2 Diabetes:
- Being obese or overweight
- High blood pressure
- Elevated levels of triglycerides and low levels of “good” cholesterol (HDL)
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Family history
- Increasing age
- Polycystic ovary syndrome
- Impaired glucose tolerance
- Insulin resistance
- Gestational diabetes during a pregnancy
- Ethnic background: Hispanic/Latino Americans, African-Americans, Native Americans, Asian-Americans, Pacific Islanders, and Alaska natives are at greater risk.
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Treatments of Diabetes
The major goal in treating Type 1 Diabetes and Type 2 Diabetes is to control blood sugar (glucose) levels within the normal range, with minimal excursions to low or high levels.
Type 1 Diabetes is treated with:
- exercise, and a
- Type 1 Diabetes Diet.
Type 2 Diabetes is treated:
- First with weight reduction, a Type 2 Diabetes diet, and exercise
- Diabetes medications (oral or injected) are prescribed when these measures fail to control the elevated blood sugars of type 2 diabetes.
- If other medications become ineffective treatment with insulin may be initiated.
Type 1 Diabetes can’t be prevented. However, the same healthy lifestyle choices that help treat prediabetes, Type 2 Diabetes and gestational diabetes can also help prevent them:
- Eat healthy foods. Choose foods lower in fat and calories and higher in fiber. Focus on fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Strive for variety to prevent boredom.
- Get more physical activity. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate physical activity a day. Take a brisk daily walk. Ride your bike. Swim laps. If you can’t fit in a long workout, break it up into smaller sessions spread throughout the day.
- Lose excess pounds. If you’re overweight, losing even 7 percent of your body weight — for example, 14 pounds (6.4 kilograms) if you weigh 200 pounds (90.7 kilograms) — can reduce the risk of diabetes.
Don’t try to lose weight during pregnancy, however. Talk to your doctor about how much weight is healthy for you to gain during pregnancy.
To keep your weight in a healthy range, focus on permanent changes to your eating and exercise habits. Motivate yourself by remembering the benefits of losing weight, such as a healthier heart, more energy and improved self-esteem.
Sometimes medication is an option as well. Oral diabetes drugs such as metformin (Glucophage, Glumetza, others) may reduce the risk of Type 2 Diabetes — but healthy lifestyle choices remain essential. Have your blood sugar checked at least once a year to check that you haven’t developed type 2 diabetes.
Healthy eating is a central part of managing diabetes. In some cases, changing your diet may be enough to control the disease.
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Type 1 diabetes
Your blood sugar level rises or falls based on the types of foods you eat. Starchy or sugary foods make blood sugar levels rise rapidly. Protein and fat cause more gradual increases.
Your medical team may recommend that you limit the number of carbohydrates you eat each day. You’ll also need to balance your carb intake with your insulin doses.
Work with a dietitian who can help you design a diabetes meal plan. Getting the right balance of protein, fat, and carbs can help you control your blood sugar.
Type 2 diabetes
Eating the right types of foods can both control your blood sugar and help you lose any excess weight.
Carb counting is an important part of eating for type 2 diabetes. A dietitian can help you figure out how many grams of carbohydrates to eat at each meal.
In order to keep your blood sugar levels steady, try to eat small meals throughout the day. Emphasize healthy foods such as:
- Whole grains
- Lean proteins such as poultry and fish
- Healthy fats such as olive oil and nuts
Certain other foods can undermine efforts to keep your blood sugar in control. Discover the foods you should avoid if you have diabetes.
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Eating a well-balanced diet is important for both you and your baby during these nine months. Making the right food choices can also help you avoid diabetes medications.
Watch your portion sizes, and limit sugary or salty foods. Although you need some sugar to feed your growing baby, you should avoid eating too much.
Consider making an eating plan with the help of a dietitian or nutritionist. They’ll ensure that your diet has the right mix of macronutrients. Go here for other do’s and don’ts for healthy eating with gestational diabetes.
Self-monitoring blood sugar levels are vital for effective diabetes management, helping to regulate meal scheduling, physical activity, and when to take medication, including insulin.
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While self-monitoring blood glucose (SMBG) machines vary, they will generally include a meter and test strip for generating readings and a lancing device to prick the skin for obtaining a small quantity of blood.
Refer to the specific instructions of a meter in every case, as machines will differ. However, the following precautions and steps will apply to many of the machines on the market:
- Make sure both hands are clean and dry before touching the test strips or meter
- Do not use a test strip more than once and keep them in their original canister to avoid any external moisture changing the result.
- Keep canisters closed after testing.
- Always check the expiration date.
- Older meters might require coding prior to use. Check to see if the machine currently in use needs this.
- Store the meter and strips in a dry, cool area.
- Take the meter and strips into consultations, so that a primary care physician or specialist can check their effectiveness.
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