Diabetes mellitus is a metabolic disease. The term comes from the Greek word diabainein, meaning “siphon,” which is how Aretus the Cappadocian, a physician from the second century A.D., described patients who were passing too much water. In 1675, the term mellitus was added in by Thomas Willis, since “mel” means “honey” in Latin. This makes sense, as the blood and urine of people with diabetes has excess glucose (blood sugar). Diabetes mellitus can be translated as “siphoning of sweet water”. Most likely, you know diabetes mellitus as the more commonly referred to diabetes.
How many people have diabetes?
More than 29 million Americans and 380 million people worldwide suffer from diabetes. Diabetes is responsible for more deaths than AIDS and breast cancer combined. Every 3 minutes an American dies from diabetes-related complications. Diabetes is a leading cause of blindness, kidney failure, amputations, heart failure, and stroke.
What types of diabetes are there?
Type 1 diabetes, also known as insulin-dependent diabetes, accounts for approximately 10% of diabetes cases. Type 1 diabetes is sometimes called “juvenile” diabetes, because it usually develops in children and teenagers. However, type 1 diabetes can develop at any age.
Type 2 diabetes, known as non-insulin dependent diabetes, is the most common form of diabetes and accounts for approximately 90% of diabetes cases. Since it typically develops in adults over the age of 35, it is sometimes called “adult-onset” diabetes. However, younger people can also develop type 2 diabetes.
Gestational diabetes affects women during pregnancy. The diagnosis is made during pregnancy.
What Causes Diabetes?
Diabetes affects metabolism, the way the body uses food for energy and growth. Food is broken down into glucose, the body’s primary fuel source. Glucose cannot enter the body’s cells without insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas. Diabetes can occur when the body doesn’t make enough insulin, doesn’t make any insulin at all, or doesn’t respond properly to it. Insulin helps transport glucose to the body’s cells to provide the energy necessary to function. Without insulin, glucose builds up in the bloodstream, and as a result, the body’s cells starve.
Blood sugar 380
With type 1 diabetes, the body’s immune system attacks the pancreas. The immune system mistakes insulin-producing cells as a threat and destroys them. These insulin-producing cells, called “islets,” sense glucose in the blood after eating and produce the amount of insulin needed to stabilize blood sugars. Without insulin, the sugar stays and builds up in the blood instead of being used by the body’s cells as energy. As a result, the body’s cells starve. If left untreated, this high blood sugar can damage eyes, kidneys, nerves, and the heart. It can also lead to coma and death.
People with type 2 diabetes can produce some of their own insulin, but it’s often not enough or the body’s cells don’t respond to it. This is referred to as insulin resistance.
With gestational diabetes, a pregnant woman may have very high levels of glucose in her blood. Her body may be unable to produce enough insulin to transport all of the glucose to her cells. As a result, glucose levels rise. If left undiagnosed or uncontrolled, gestational diabetes can increase the risk of complications during childbirth.
What are the Symptoms of Diabetes?
The most common signs and symptoms of diabetes are:
Frequent urination – when there is too much glucose in the blood, the body will try to get rid of it through the urine
Unusual thirst – the body needs to replace the water lost from the increased urination
Intense hunger – if insulin isn’t transporting glucose to the body’s cells, the body may be starving for energy
Weight gain – this may be the result of increased food intake in the body’s attempt to get energy
Unusual weight loss – more common with type 1 diabetes, the body may break down muscle and fat to get the energy it needs
Increased fatigue – without energy, the body will get tired
Irritability – may be the result of the lack of energy
Blurred vision – if left untreated, blindness or prolonged vision problems can occur
Cuts and bruises are slow to heal – high blood sugar can affect the body’s ability to heal
More skin and/or yeast infections – high blood sugar can affect the body’s ability to recover from infections
Itchy skin – can sometimes occur
Gums are red and/or swollen – teeth can become loose as the gums pull away from them
Frequent gum disease/infection – gum disease and/or gum infections may occur
Numbness or tingling, especially in your feet and hands – nerves may become damaged if there is too much sugar in the body
Since it is possible to have diabetes with mild symptoms or no symptoms at all, some people may be unaware they have the condition and remain undiagnosed. Complications can arise from poorly controlled diabetes.
Complications of Poorly Controlled Diabetes
Glaucoma, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy
Neuropathy, ulcers, and sometimes gangrene which may require the foot to be amputated
Infections and skin disorders
Heart problems, such as ischemic heart disease
Hypertension, which can increase the risk of kidney disease, eye problems, heart attack, and stroke
Mental health issues including depression, anxiety, and some other mental disorders
Gastroparesis – the muscles of the stomach stop working properly
Ketoacidosis – an accumulation of ketone bodies and acidity in the blood
Neuropathy – a type of nerve damage which can lead to several different problems
HHNS (Hyperosmolar Hyperglycemic Nonketotic Syndrome) – an emergency condition in which the blood glucose levels shoot up too high
Nephropathy – uncontrolled blood pressure that can lead to kidney disease
PAD (peripheral arterial disease) – pain in the leg, tingling, and sometimes problems walking properly
If you experience these signs and symptoms, please seek the advice of a medical professional. Prompt diagnosis and management decrease the risk of serious complications.
How is Diabetes Treated?
All types of diabetes can be treated.
Type 1 diabetes is treated with insulin injections. The dose depends on a variety of factors including diet, exercise, stress, and general health. Too much insulin can cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), while too little insulin can leave the body’s cells starving and cause hyperglycemia (high blood sugar). It’s important to get the right dose of insulin to effectively manage blood sugar levels.
Since there is an association between type 2 diabetes and obesity, treatment often focuses on diet and exercise. Oral medications can help the body use its own insulin more efficiently. In some cases, insulin injections are necessary to normalize blood sugars.
Gestational diabetes can be controlled with diet and exercise. Some women with gestational diabetes may need to take medication to control blood glucose.
Effective management of diabetes can be achieved using an integrative approach of diet, exercise, and supplementation. By making informed lifestyle decisions, you can not only reduce the severity of diabetes symptoms, but can also improve your overall health and wellbeing.
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