About Diabetes

diabetes

Diabetes refers to a group of diseases that affect how the body processes blood glucose, otherwise known as blood sugar. Glucose is vital to your health because it provides an important source of energy for the cells that make up your muscles and tissues as well as providing the main source of fuel for the brain.

No matter what type of diabetes you have, it means you have too much glucose in your blood. This can lead to serious health issues

Chronic diabetes conditions include type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes.

The Myth about Blood Sugars and Diabetes

What is Diabetes

Causes

Insulin is a hormone that comes from the pancreas, a gland situated behind and below the stomach.

-- The pancreas secretes insulin into the bloodstream.

-- The insulin circulates, enabling sugar to enter your cells.

-- Insulin lowers the amount of sugar in your bloodstream.

-- As your blood sugar level drops, so does the secretion of insulin from your pancreas.

Glucose, a sugar, is a main source of energy for the cells that make up muscles and other tissues.

-- Glucose comes from two major sources: food and your liver.

-- Sugar is absorbed into the bloodstream, where it enters cells with the help of insulin.

-- Your liver stores and makes glucose.

-- When your insulin levels are low, such as when you haven't eaten in a while, the liver metabolizes stored glycogen into glucose to keep your glucose level within a normal range.

Causes of Type 1 diabetes:

In type 1 diabetes, your immune system, which normally fights harmful bacteria or viruses, attacks and destroys your insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. This leaves you with little or no insulin. Instead of being transported into your cells, sugar builds up in your bloodstream. Type 1 is thought to be caused by a combination of genetic susceptibility and environmental factors, though exactly what many of those factors are is still unclear.

Causes of prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes:

In prediabetes, which can lead to type 2 diabetes, and in type 2 diabetes, your cells become resistant to the action of insulin, and your pancreas is unable to make enough insulin to overcome this resistance. Instead of moving into your cells where it's needed for energy, sugar builds up in your bloodstream. Exactly why this happens is uncertain, although as in type 1 diabetes, it's believed that genetic and environmental factors play a role in the development of type 2. Being overweight is strongly linked to the development of type 2 diabetes, but not everyone with type 2 is overweight.

Causes of gestational diabetes:

During pregnancy, the placenta produces hormones to sustain your pregnancy. These hormones make your cells more resistant to insulin. As your placenta grows larger in the second and third trimesters, it secretes more of these hormones — making it even harder for insulin to do its job.

Normally, your pancreas responds by producing enough extra insulin to overcome this resistance. But sometimes your pancreas can't keep up. When this happens, too little glucose gets into your cells and too much stays in your blood. This is gestational diabetes.

Symptoms

Diabetes symptoms vary depending on how much your blood sugar is elevated. Some people, especially those with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, may not experience symptoms initially. In type 1 diabetes, symptoms tend to come on quickly and be more severe. Some of the signs and symptoms of type 1 and type 2 diabetes include: Increased thirst Frequent urination Extreme hunger Unexplained weight loss Presence of ketones Fatigue Blurred vision Slow-healing sores High blood pressure Frequent infections, such as gums or skin infections and vaginal or bladder infections Although type 1 diabetes can develop at any age, it typically appears during childhood or adolescence. Type 2 diabetes, the more common type, can develop at any age and is often preventable.

Risk Factors

Risk factors for Type 1 diabetes:

Although the exact cause of type 1 diabetes is unknown, genetic factors likely play a role. Your risk of developing type 1 diabetes increases if you have a parent or sibling who has type 1 diabetes. Environmental factors, such as exposure to a viral illness, also likely play some role in type 1 diabetes. Other factors that may increase your risk include:

A) The presence of damaging immune system cells that make autoantibodies. Sometimes family members of people with type 1 diabetes are tested for the presence of diabetes autoantibodies. If you have these autoantibodies, you have an increased risk of developing type 1 diabetes. But, not everyone who has these autoantibodies develops type 1.

B) Dietary factors: A number of dietary factors have been linked to an increased risk of type 1 diabetes, such as low vitamin D consumption; early exposure to cow's milk or cow's milk formula; or exposure to cereals before 4 months of age. However, none of these factors has been shown to cause type 1 diabetes.

C) Race: Type 1 diabetes is more common in whites than in other races.

D) Geography. Certain countries, such as Finland and Sweden, have higher rates of type 1 diabetes.

Risk factors for prediabetes and type 2 diabetes:

Researchers don't fully understand why some people develop prediabetes and type 2 diabetes and others don't. It's clear that certain factors increase the risk, however, including:

A) Weight: The more fatty tissue you have, the more resistant your cells become to insulin.

B) Inactivity: The less active you are, the greater your risk. Physical activity helps you control your weight, uses up glucose as energy and makes your cells more sensitive to insulin. Exercising less than three times a week may increase your risk of type 2 diabetes.

C) Family history: Your risk increases if a parent or sibling has type 2 diabetes.

D) Race. Although it's unclear why, people of certain races — including blacks, Hispanics, American Indians and Asians — are at higher risk.

E) Age. Your risk increases as you get older. This may be because you tend to exercise less, lose muscle mass and gain weight as you age. But type 2 diabetes is also increasing dramatically among children, adolescents and younger adults.

Gestational diabetes. If you developed gestational diabetes when you were pregnant, your risk of developing prediabetes and type 2 diabetes later increases. If you gave birth to a baby weighing more than 9 pounds (4 kilograms), you're also at risk of type 2 diabetes.

Polycystic ovary syndrome. For women, having polycystic ovary syndrome — a common condition characterized by irregular menstrual periods, excess hair growth and obesity — increases the risk of diabetes.

High blood pressure. Having blood pressure over 140/90mm Hg is linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

Abnormal cholesterol levels. If you have low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good," cholesterol, your risk of type 2 diabetes is higher. Low levels of HDL are defined as below 35 mg/dL.

High levels of triglycerides. Triglycerides are a fat carried in the blood. If your triglyceride levels are above 250 mg/dL, your risk of diabetes increases.

Risk factors for gestational diabetes:

Any pregnant woman can develop gestational diabetes, but some women are at greater risk than are others. Risk factors for gestational diabetes include:

Age. Women older than age 25 are at increased risk.

Family or personal history. Your risk increases if you have prediabetes — a precursor to type 2 diabetes — or if a close family member, such as a parent or sibling, has type 2 diabetes.

You're also at greater risk if you had gestational diabetes during a previous pregnancy, if you delivered a very large baby or if you had an unexplained stillbirth.

Weight. Being overweight before pregnancy increases your risk.

Race. For reasons that aren't clear, women who are black, Hispanic, American Indian or Asian are more likely to develop gestational diabetes.