Special Blog: The Basics of Diabetes

Diabetes is a lifelong disease characterized by excessive levels of blood sugar. It is a group of diseases that generally affect how the body utilizes blood sugar. Blood sugar is a critical component of the blood because it provides nourishment to the cells that make up muscles, tissues, and organs. It is also important for brain functions. When too much blood sugar is in the blood, the condition called diabetes occurs. Excessive blood sugar may lead to very serious health complications.

There are two types of diabetes: Type 1 diabetes and Type 2 diabetes. There is also a condition called prediabetes wherein blood sugar levels are abnormally high but not excessive enough to be classified as diabetes. Prediabetes may still be cured or reversed. There is also a form of diabetes called gestational diabetes that occurs in pregnant women.

Symptoms

Symptoms associated with diabetes differ depending on the level of glucose (sugar) present in the blood. In many people afflicted with Type 2 diabetes, the symptoms are not manifested at first. On the other hand, individuals with Type 1 diabetes experience severe symptoms. Common symptoms for both types of diabetes include extreme hunger, fatigue, blurred vision, slow healing wounds, increased thirst, mild high blood pressure, unexplained weight loss, frequent urination, and frequent infections that affect the gums, skin, bladder, and other body parts. Obesity is commonly associated with Type 2 diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes may develop at any age but often show symptoms during the patient’s childhood or adolescent years. Type 2 diabetes may develop at any age but is generally preventable.

Causes

The main cause of Type 1 diabetes is a hyperactive immune system that mistakenly identifies insulin-producing cells in the pancreas as a health threat. Consequently the immune system-the task of which is to combat harmful viruses and bacteria that have entered the body–attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells. This results to very low levels of insulin in the body. Some doctors belive that autoimmune disorder such as type 1 diabetes can be triggered by infectious agents like viruses, bacteria, and yeast. The infectious theory of autoimmunity is not proven at this time.

Insulin is a hormone that regulates the metabolism of fats and carbohydrates in the body. Without adequate amounts of insulin, cells in vital organs will not be able to absorb their blood sugar requirements, leading to organ malfunctions. Meantime, unabsorbed blood sugar causes abnormally high concentrations of glucose in the blood that later on becomes toxic. Type 1 diabetes is reportedly caused by genetic (hereditary) predisposition to certain environmental factors.

In Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, the cells develop a resistance against the intended effects of insulin. When this happens the pancreas still produces insulin but not at levels that can overcome the cellular resistance against it. As a result, an oversupply of blood sugar in the body occurs. Similar to Type 1 diabetes, many experts believe that Type 2 diabetes is genetic in nature and is triggered by environmental factors.

Treatment

Diabetes treatment depends on the condition type but normally involves the constant monitoring of blood sugar levels, oral medications and insulin intake. Surgery involving a pancreas transplant is also available for patients with extreme cases of diabetes. Healthy lifestyle changes are also prescribed treatment for any type of diabetes. Healthy diet, weight monitoring, and exercise should all be in a diabetes treatment program.


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