Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors
Diabetes mellitus, often called diabetes, is a condition that makes it hardfor the body to control the level of glucose in the blood. This means it is hard for thebody to convert food into the energy that the body needs to work. Glucose is the mainform of sugar in the body.
What is going on in the body?
The pancreas, a long, thin organ located behind the stomach, makesinsulin. In most people, the pancreas makes extra insulin when they eat. It is thenreleased into the bloodstream. Insulin helps move glucose that is in the bloodstream tothe inside of cells in the body. Glucose is a key source of energy for the body. In aperson with diabetes, the pancreas cannot make enough insulin to keep up with thebody’s demand. So glucose cannot be moved into the cells and used. In some typesof diabetes, the body cells resist the insulin. As a result, glucose builds up in theblood. And that leads to a high blood glucose level, called hyperglycemia.
Some 17 million Americans have diabetes, according to the AmericanDiabetic Association, also known as ADA. There are three main types of diabetes.
There are other types of diabetes that are less common. This categoryincludes diabetes caused by a genetic defect or pancreatic diseases. Other typesof diabetes are caused by hormonal problems or from being exposed to certaindrugs or chemicals.
, or thiazidediuretics.
What are the causes and risks of the disease?
Genetics may play a part in all types of diabetes mellitus. Othercauses and risks vary. They depend on the type of diabetes involved.
Type 1 diabetesdoes not always have a known cause. Experts believe it might be caused by anautoimmune disorder, in which the body makes antibodies that destroy pancreaticcells. Experts do know that type 1 diabetes is more common in whites than in othergroups.
Type 2 diabetesoccurs when the cells in the body are resistant to insulin. As a result, the bodycannot use blood glucose as well as it should. Risk factors for type 2 diabetes include:
Almost all people who develop type 2 diabetes have a condition calledpre-diabetes first. Thiscondition used to be known as impaired glucose tolerance or impaired fastingglucose, and the ADA estimates that almost 16 million people over the age of 40have it. This condition occurs when blood glucose levels are higher than healthylevels but too low to be diagnosed as diabetes. Without lifestyle changes, mostpeople who have pre-diabetes will progress to type 2 diabetes within 10 years.
Symptoms & Signs
What are the signs and symptoms of the disease?
Symptoms partly depend on the type of diabetes a person has andhow long it has been untreated. Many patients with type 2 diabetes have nosymptoms at all. Any signs and symptoms are mostly related to high bloodglucose levels and include:
A condition called ketoacidosismay occur in a person with type 1 diabetesif the person goes without enough insulin for too long. This is a severe complication andrequires medical attention right away. Symptoms include:
Diagnosis & Tests
How is the disease diagnosed?
A doctor may suspect diabetes after taking a person’s health history anddoing a physical exam. Based on those results, the doctor may want to check for ahigh glucose level in the blood. There are several types of blood tests doctors canuse to diagnose diabetes, including:
Prevention & Expectations
What can be done to prevent the disease?
There is no way to prevent type 1 diabetes.But it may be possible to prevent type 2 diabetesin many cases! This is especially true once pre-diabetes is known. Even modestlifestyle changes can help prevent the onset of diabetes. This is why it is veryimportant to recognize pre-diabetes. The key is to:
What are the long-term effects of the disease?
Over time, high blood sugar levels damage blood vessels, nerves, andother internal structures. Long-term effects of diabetes may include:
Some of these long-term effects may begin even at the moderate-highlevels of blood glucose seen in pre-diabetes. This is why it is important to eat ahealthy diet, exercise 30 minutes a day, and keep body weight within ahealthy range. All of these actions can keep blood glucose withinhealthy levels. People with diabetes risk factors should also be screened forpre-diabetes on a regular basis.
What are the risks to others?
Diabetes is not catching and poses no risk to others. It does tend torun in families.
Treatment & Monitoring
What are the treatments for the disease?
Treatment depends on the type of diabetes that is present. A person withtype 1 diabeteswill most likely need insulin shots each day. These shots replace the insulinthat the pancreas cannot make on its own. A proper diet is also a key to staying healthy.
Gestational diabetes is also usually treated with diet and insulin shots as needed.
The most effective treatment available for type 2 diabetes is a change in lifestyle, including the following:
A person with type 2 diabetes may also be treated withoral medicines and/or insulin shots. Diabetes pills can work in four ways.
Treating the underlying condition or stopping a certain medicine maycorrect diabetes that is caused by medicine or an illness. If this is not possible,diet, exercise, and pills or shots are used to control the blood glucose.
Careful monitoring and management help keep diabetes undercontrol and reduce the risk of long-term effects. A person with diabetes should:
Treating the complications of diabetes may involve many differentspecialists. For example, a person with diabetes may need to see eye, heart, foot,hormone, and circulation specialists. Dieticians also help people with diabetes bydesigning a healthy eating plan. Dieticians can also suggest healthy calorie intake levelsand types of foods to eat.
What are the side effects of the treatments?
Side effects depend on the treatments used. If a personhas too much insulin in his or her body, the blood glucose levels can drop too low.This condition, called hypoglycemia,can cause the following symptoms:
The usual treatment for low blood glucose is to drink a sweet beverage or eat a sweetfood. If low blood glucose goes untreated, a person may pass out orhave seizures. Emergency medical care is crucial in this situation.
Some of the oral medicines used for type 2 diabetes may cause weightloss or gain,allergic reactions,or liver damage. Some may also cause low blood glucose levels.
What happens after treatment for the disease?
Diabetes generally cannot be cured, but it can be controlled withcareful management and treatment. A person with diabetes will need tohave close medical follow-up throughout his or her life to control blood glucoselevels and prevent serious complications.
How is the disease monitored?
A person with diabetes should keep all of his or her appointmentswith his or her primary doctor, as well as other scheduled specialists.Physical exams, blood tests, urine tests, foot and skin care, routine eye exams,and routine dental care are all part of basic care for a person with diabetes. Themain goal of treatment is to keep blood glucose levels as close to a healthy rangeas is safely possible. In general, ideal ranges of blood glucose levels are 80 to 120milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) before meals and 100 to 140 mg/dL at bedtime. Anynew or worsening symptoms should be reported to the doctor.
Article type: xmedgeneral