Diabetes is a medical condition wherein there is an elevation in sugar levels in the blood. This may be caused by lack of insulin production in the pancreas or due to decreased sensitivity of the cells to insulin. Diabetes affects children and adults alike and the number of people with diabetes increases every day. There are three types of diabetes, specifically Type I diabetes, Type II diabetes, and diabetes during pregnancy which is known as gestational diabetes, with Type II diabetes being the most common and is usually a lifestyle-related disease.
The Role of Insulin and How It Affects Diabetics:
The pancreas is an organ in the body that produces a hormone called insulin. Insulin is needed by glucose, a simple form of sugar present in the blood, to enter the cells and provide energy. Glucose is formed when carbohydrates from the food we eat are broken down into its simplest form. It enters the blood stream and normally enters fat, liver, and muscle cells with the help of insulin. Glucose is the main source of fuel of cells in the body so that these can function normally. In individuals with diabetes, one of two things may occur. One, the pancreas may produce little or no insulin at all which makes glucose build up in the blood. This is also known as Type 1 Diabetes and individuals with this type of diabetes need daily injections of insulin. Second, the cells of the body may not react to insulin the way they are supposed to which also causes accumulation of blood glucose. This is known as Type 2 Diabetes and is usually caused by physical inactivity and poor weight control. This type of diabetes is commonly managed with oral medications, diet, and exercise.
Symptoms of Diabetes:
Diabetes symptoms of individuals with type 1 diabetes usually manifest within a short time period while those with type 2 diabetes may develop symptoms slowly. Some individuals with type 2 diabetes may not experience diabetes symptoms at all. Elevated sugar levels in the blood cause excessive thirst, hunger, and frequent urination which are three of the symptoms commonly experienced by diabetics. There may also be weight loss, fatigue, and blurry vision.
Diabetes Care and Treatment:
Diabetes treatment depends on the type of diabetes an individual has although it will usually involves focus on monitoring blood sugar and blood sugar control through diet and exercise. A glucometer, a device that measure blood sugar, is needed to check individual blood glucose. The patient needs to regularly monitor his or her blood sugar and keep a record of these measurements for evaluation by the doctor or nurse. Individuals with type 1 diabetes will also need to follow a diabetic diet and meals should be eaten at the same time each day to prevent blood sugar from fluctuating. Regular exercise is also necessary for blood sugar control as it helps burn off excess calories and fats in the body.
Foot care is also given emphasis in diabetes care management since the disease can cause damage to the nerves and blood vessels. The skin can become damaged and infected, and if left untreated, the foot may need to be amputated. Checking and caring for the feet every day and wearing the right shoes can help prevent foot injuries.
For individuals with type 1 diabetes, insulin is also needed on a daily basis. It needs to be injected under the skin and differs in how fast it works and how long the effects last. Sometimes, more than one type of insulin may be given at the same time. Type 2 diabetes patients, on the other hand, may need to take medications for blood sugar control such as metformin and glimepiride.
Diabetes Prevention in Individuals with a Family History:
Diabetes tends to run in the family and is considered to be a major risk factor for getting the disease. Type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented and eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly will not keep an individual from getting the disease. There are some studies though suggesting that breastfeeding and avoidance of early introduction of solid foods in infants can lower the risk of developing type 1 diabetes. There is no test to predict who will get type 1 diabetes but there are blood tests that can detect it in its early stages.
Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, can be prevented since it is more of a lifestyle-related disease. Excessive weight, obesity, and physical inactivity are all risks for type 2 diabetes. It used to be more common in adults although it is also becoming more common in children and adolescents. Eating a healthy diet low in fat and avoiding foods and drinks high in sugar can prevent weight gain which is a major risk factor associated with diabetes. Staying active through exercise and sports can also help prevent the development of type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes affects millions of people in the U.S. alone. While type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented, there are many ways to prevent type 2 diabetes from developing despite a family history of diabetes. Proper diet and exercise are keys to diabetes prevention and to better health as well.