What is Diabetes?


Diabetes Mellitus, also known as simply diabetes is a chronic, metabolic illness that affects the manner in which your body processes insulin. Blood glucose is your body's main source of energy. It comes from the food you eat. The process is called your metabolism. Insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas, helps glucose move from food into your cells, which make up your tissues and muscles. This is then either used for energy immediately or stored as fat or the starch glycogen until it is needed. Your glucose levels vary normally throughout the day. They rise after a meal and then return to pre-meal levels within approximately 2 hours after eating. Once the levels of glucose in the blood return to pre-meal levels, insulin production decreases. Sometimes your body either does not make enough insulin, if any at all, or it does not use insulin well. This is known as Insulin Resistance. When this happens glucose stays in your blood and does not reach your cells. The result is high blood sugar levels in your body, which is called Hyperglycemia. If left untreated, it can lead to serious damage of your heart, blood vesssels, nerves, eyes, kidneys, and other organs. According to the World Health Organization approximately 422 million people worldwide have diabetes with 1.6 million deaths being directly attributed to it.


There are several different types of diabetes:


Type 1 Diabetes

Once called juvenile diabetes, this type of diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults, although you can develop it at any age. While the exact cause of type 1 diabetes is not known, it is an autoimmune disease, meaning your immune system attacks the insullin producing cells in the pancreas. The result is that your body is unable to make insulin, leaving the glucose to build up in your bloodstream. Persons with type 1 diabetes need to take insulin daily in order to stay alive. Approximately 10% of people with diabetes have this form of the disease.


Type 2 Diabetes

This is the most common types of diabetes and can be found in 90% of the cases with diabetes. It occurs when your body does not make or use insulin well resulting in glucose building up in your bloodstream. While genetic factors can play a part to the development of this type of diabetes, the risk of having type 2 diabetes increases with lifestyle factors for example, being overweight, having high blood pressure, leading a sedentary life and having high cholesterol. Over time most people with type 2 diabetes will require oral drugs and/or insulin to keep their blood glucose levels under control. What makes this type of diabetes dangerous is that you can live many years without knowing you have it. It is therefore important to maintain regular check ups to test your blood sugar levels.


Prediabetes

Your blood sugar levels are not high enough to receive a type 2 diabetes diagnosis but is higher than the normal range. While it is reversible, if left untreated it can develop into type 2 diabetes.


Gestational Diabetes

As the name suggests, this type of diabetes develops during pregnancy and can result in serious complications. A test is done between 24-28 weeks or the pregnancy. Insulin-blocking hormones produced by the placenta is the main cause of this type of diabetes. Usually the pancreas will create more insulin to counteract this resistance, but sometimes it just can't keep up, resulting in glucose not reaching your cells and staying in your bloodstream. Gestational diabetes normally goes away after the baby is born. It is estimated that between 2%-5% of women will develop gestational diabetes during their pregnancies, especially women over 45 years. Approximately half of women with a history of gestational diabetes go on to develop type 2 diabetes within 5 to 10 years after delivery.



This article is for informational purposes only and is not meant to offer medical advice.


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