Diabetes is a disease that affects the way the body uses glucose, also called sugar, to fuel the body’s cells. People with diabetes have too much glucose in their blood, and a poor mechanism for converting it to energy. Without proper management, diabetes can cause severe problems throughout the body.
Our bodies create blood glucose by breaking down carbohydrates in the food we eat. Glucose is carried through the bloodstream to the body’s cells, where it is needed for energy. Glucose can’t enter cells without help from a hormone called insulin, which is made by the pancreas. A person with diabetes does not have enough insulin, or cannot process it efficiently. Glucose is unable to enter the
body’s cells. When this happens, the cells don’t have enough fuel to function properly. Glucose builds up in the blood.
Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes
The two main types of diabetes are called type 1 and type 2. In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas produces little or no insulin because the
insulin-producing cells are destroyed by the person’s own immune system. In type 2 diabetes, the body can produce insulin, but the cells become resistant to it. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes.
Another type of diabetes is called gestational diabetes. This affects pregnant mothers, usually late in the pregnancy. It usually goes away after birth, but women who have gestational diabetes have a higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Another condition closely linked to diabetes is called prediabetes. This is a higher-than-normal blood glucose level that is not quite high enough to be considered diabetes. Without some lifestyle changes, a person who has prediabetes may develop type 2 diabetes.
Not all people who have diabetes notice symptoms. Those who do may experience frequent urination, dehydration and fatigue. Diabetes can cause nausea, vomiting, unexpected weight loss and blurred vision. A person who has diabetes may also have rapid changes in blood glucose levels. This is a medical emergency. Very high or very low blood glucose levels can cause coma and death.
Management for all types of diabetes includes eating healthy foods, getting regular exercise and monitoring and regulating blood sugar levels. Type 1 diabetes requires insulin injections to help the body process glucose. A person with type 1 diabetes may also benefit from a pancreas or islet cell transplant. Some people with type 2 diabetes may be able to control their blood glucose without medication. They may need to add an oral medication or insulin eventually.
If not managed properly, diabetes can cause serious problems. It raises the risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke. It can affect the circulatory and nervous systems. It can cause poor circulation and poor sensation in the feet and hands. Infections in the extremities may be difficult to treat. This can lead to amputation. A person with diabetes may develop diabetic retinopathy, which affects the blood vessels in the eyes. This can cause blindness. Diabetes can cause damage to the kidneys. It can cause kidney failure. It may cause problems with digestion. It may also cause erectile dysfunction in men.