Understanding diabetes is very important because it is a chronic disease that, if well managed, can allow an almost normal life. If uncontrolled, it can be the cause of life-threatening complications. An essential feature of diabetes is high blood glucose levels. The body’s hormone which checks glucose levels is insulin. This hormone lowers blood glucose levels by promoting its uptake by tissues to use as a fuel. When insulin production is diminished or tissues become resistant to its effect, diabetes occurs.

The National Diabetes Statistics Report states that over 29 million Americans have diabetes. That is quite significant as it means that almost every tenth person is affected. Studies have also shown that it is the seventh leading cause of death, and even those individuals who do not die directly because of diabetes may find their life expectancy reduced by several years. Additionally, the risk of heart disease is doubled and diabetes can cause some fearsome complications such as kidney failure, blindness, and lower-limb amputations. Diabetes continues to be rising despite the billions of dollars that are spent every year on related healthcare and treatments.

Classification of Diabetes

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is considered an autoimmune disease with a hereditary component that manifests in children and young adults. Its main characteristic is the complete absence of the pancreatic cells that produce a hormone called insulin, without insulin it is impossible for glucose to get into the body cells, causing sugar to build up in the bloodstream.

Even though there’s no definitive cure, type 1 diabetes is mostly manageable, and recent studies have improved the life expectancy of people suffering from this condition. Treatment focuses on managing blood sugar levels with insulin, diet, and a healthy lifestyle to prevent complications. There's no known way to prevent type 1 diabetes.

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes happens when the body cannot properly produce and use the insulin hormone, this is called “insulin resistance”, which means that the different body tissues and organs are not affected by the amount of insulin produced by the pancreas, which by itself, have to constantly produce more and more to keep up with the constantly rising glucose levels, to no avail. As opposed to type 1 diabetes, this type of disease is an “acquired” one, affecting only people with some risk factors, these being obesity, unhealthy dieting, and physical inactivity. There is also a minor hereditary factor related to this disease as well.

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 Diabetes Risk Factors

Diabetes Symptoms

Diabetes symptoms have some variations whether it’s type 1 or 2, the more common symptoms between the two include increased thirst (polydipsia), frequent urination (polyuria), excessive appetite or eating (polyphagia), irritability, fatigue or weakness, blurred vision, and slow healing bruises or cuts. Differences between type 1 and type 2 diabetes are mainly due to weight, in the case of the type 1 disease, there’s an unexplained weight loss, and in the case of the type 2, the weight loss is hardly noticeable due to the lifestyle that the patient usually has.

Symptoms can be fairly subtle, so it is unsurprising that many people don't realize that they have diabetes for a long time. This is especially true for type 2 diabetes, which is the more common form of the disease. This also means that many people may be first diagnosed when they are present with the symptoms of a complication. People who are overweight or obese are more prone to developing type 2 diabetes. Losing weight through a healthy diet and sufficient exercise can significantly reduce this risk. Family history and ethnicity are types of risk factors that cannot be controlled but individuals can reduce their overall risk of diabetes by maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Diabetes Diagnosis

The goals of diabetes testing are to screen for high blood glucose levels (hyperglycemia), to detect and diagnose diabetes and prediabetes, to monitor and control glucose levels over time, and to detect and monitor complications in already diagnosed people.

A physician can test for diabetes when someone has signs and symptoms suggestive of the disease, when a person has risk factors or a condition that is associated with diabetes, when a person presents to the emergency room with an acute condition, or on a regular basis to monitor diabetes and glucose control.

According to the American Diabetes Association, several different tests may be used for screening and diagnosing diabetes or prediabetes. If the initial screening result is abnormal, the test is repeated on another day. The repeat result must be abnormal to confirm a diagnosis of diabetes. Tests include:

Diabetes Treatment

Maintaining your blood sugar levels within the range recommended by your doctor can be challenging. That's because many things make your blood sugar levels change, sometimes abruptly. Keeping track of the food you ingest, making healthy food choices, avoiding sugar-sweetened beverages, and exercising regularly, are primordial steps to keep your diabetes controlled.

For diabetes type 1, several types of insulin are available. Each type starts to work at a different speed, known as “onset,” and its effects last a different length of time, known as “duration.” Most types of insulin reach a peak, which is when they have the strongest effect. Then the effects of the insulin wear off over the next few hours or so.

For type 2 diabetes, you may need medicines along with healthy eating and physical activity habits to manage your disease. Most people with type 2 diabetes start medical treatment with metformin pills. Metformin lowers the amount of glucose that your liver makes and helps your body use insulin better. Other oral medicines act in different ways to lower blood glucose levels. You may need to add another diabetes medicine after a while or use a combination treatment. In some cases, insulin injections will be necessary to manage your glucose levels.

If you want to learn more about this disease, you can check the links provided below:

What is Diabetes?

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Risk Factors, Prevention, and Screening

Diabetes greatly increases the risk of stroke. Healthcare providers will learn what to do in the suspected stroke algorithm, but it is still important for everyone to recognize the signs and know the importance of acting immediately.

Disease Management and Treatment