Diabetes is a serious medical condition that affects over 23 million people in the United States. Diabetes is a disorder where the body is unable to process and regulate blood sugar, which can lead to serious medical problems. There are many people who have already been diagnosed with this lifelong illness and many more with conditions that pre-dispose them to developing it. Research is being done on ways to fight this disease and find a cure.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a situation where the body cannot process and use the sugar that is in the bloodstream. When a person eats a meal, their body breaks down the nutrients in the food to form glucose. Glucose is also called “blood sugar” and it is responsible for providing energy for the body to participate in activities and to grow. An organ in the body called the pancreas produces insulin, which is a substance that allows the glucose to enter the cells of the body to be used. With diabetes, these processes within the body cannot take place. If left untreated, diabetes can lead to eye problems, complications with the body’s circulatory system, and damage to internal organs. It can eventually cause death if not controlled. Diabetes is a serious medical condition that requires management with the help of a doctor.
- The American Diabetes Association: The basics of diabetes.
- Pamphlet from the American Heart Association: What is Diabetes and How Can I Control It?
- The University of California Cooperative Extension: Diabetes definition and types.
- The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation: Explanation of diabetes.
Types of Diabetes
There are three types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is a condition where the pancreas does not produce enough insulin to utilize the glucose that is in the body. Glucose levels then increase in the blood, causing a sluggish circulatory system. People with type 1 diabetes must take supplements of insulin for the rest of their lives. Type 1 diabetes occurs frequently in children and young adults, but can develop in people of all ages. For this reason, it is also referred to as juvenile diabetes.
The second type of diabetes is type 2, which is the most common. In this case, the pancreas makes insulin, but the body is unable to use it. Many people are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes as adults, and it is frequently associated with being overweight. Approximately 80% of patients diagnosed with type 2 diabetes are over their normal weight.
Gestational diabetes arises in women that are pregnant. During pregnancy a woman with gestational diabetes must control her blood sugars. This condition can make both the mother and baby ill. Gestational diabetes ends when the baby is born, but the woman has a greater risk of developing diabetes later in life.
Treatments and Management
Diabetes is treated depending on which type a person has. A doctor can diagnose diabetes by testing a patient’s blood sugar through a lab test. A patient must have their blood drawn after a period of time when they have not eaten a meal. This shows what the body’s regular blood sugar is without being affected by added food. A diagnosis of diabetes is made by comparing several consecutive blood sugars and considering the patient’s lifestyle and situation.
Type 1 diabetes is managed with insulin supplements, sometimes several times a day. A patient must frequently check their blood sugar and take enough insulin to control it. They must also watch their diet and avoid foods with excess sugar, monitor their exercise regime, and manage other symptoms if they occur. Insulin for patients with type 1 diabetes is usually given by injection into the body. Many people wear a small pump, about the size of a cell phone, which directly injects insulin into the body when programmed.
Type 2 diabetes is managed in several ways. Some people need to take insulin supplements, and some can manage their glucose levels with oral medication. They must also watch their diet carefully and follow an exercise program. For an overweight person with type 2 diabetes, the goal is ultimately to lose excess weight, which many times affects how much medication they need to take, if at all.
Treatment for gestational diabetes involves checking glucose levels frequently for the duration of the pregnancy. A woman must also carefully monitor her diet, get frequent exercise, and maintain a healthy pregnancy weight.
- Diabetes Lab Tests: Explanation of different types of diabetes and how they are diagnosed.
- UAB Health Information: Treatment and management of diabetes.
- Rush University Health Center Diabetes Information: Test and treatments for diabetes.
- Treatment for Diabetes: Explanation from the University of Chicago Medical Center.
- Blood Glucose Monitoring: Article about how to keep track of blood sugar.
Symptoms of diabetes can be difficult to clarify. They frequently are associated with other signs of illness. The symptoms of type 1 diabetes are feeling thirsty, the need for frequent urination, being tired and lethargic, and feeling continually hungry but still losing weight. For a child being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, it is especially difficult to pinpoint symptoms, particularly if they are at a young enough age where they cannot explain how they feel. Type 2 diabetes involves all of the symptoms of type 1, as well as vision problems, numbness or tingling in the extremities, and having a sore or infection that is slow to heal. Sometimes, people with type 2 diabetes are unaware that they have it, as they have no symptoms at all. During gestational diabetes, symptoms are not usually noticeable or are attributed to pregnancy symptoms. Gestational diabetes is usually found by a routine lab test during prenatal care.
- New York State Department of Health: Explanation of the symptoms of diabetes.
- Dealing with Diabetes: Report about what symptoms are common with diabetes.
- Health Center: Diabetes: Description of symptoms associated with the disease.
- Promoting Healthy Lifestyles: Information about diabetes symptoms.
Facts and Help for Diabetics
Nearly 8% of the population of the United States has some form of diabetes. It affects African-Americans and Hispanics more commonly than any other ethnic group. It is also the seventh leading cause of death in America and causes serious medical problems for the body’s organs. It can lead to stroke, loss of vision, or such poor circulation as to cause amputation of a limb. A doctor must carefully manage diabetes and there are many clinics across the country that assist with specific problems associated with this illness. A person with diabetes must also have supplies for checking their blood sugars and giving injections of insulin if necessary. These supplies are found at pharmacies or are ordered by prescription by a doctor.
- General Diabetes Facts and Information: Basic facts about diabetes.
- Diabetes and Diet: Myths and Facts: Tips and information about diet for those with diabetes (PDF).
- Kids Health: Diabetes facts and myths.
- Health First: A comparison of myths vs. facts about diabetes.
Medical News on Diabetes
There is much research that is ongoing in the field of diabetes. New products are being issued for use in the market. Medical news on diabetes can be found at many health sites or in medical journals. This keeps people informed of changes that may be taking place in their healthcare regime. For example, a recent product that has been developed is a form of contact lenses used to monitor blood sugar levels. Patients can wear these lenses to notify them of when their blood glucose is rising, which is less invasive than drawing blood every day. Trends and statistics are also given as part of medical news. People with diabetes can maintain their health program by talking with their doctor and reading medical news reports about their condition.
- Diabetes Professional Resources: Extensive explanation about news and education for those with diabetes.
- The Defeat Diabetes Foundation: Website with news and updates for those living with the disease.
- The Diabetes Research Institute: Updated news and research focused on diabetes.
Support and Additional Resources
There are various methods of support for those living with diabetes. Many people find help in a support group for family and those afflicted with the disease. There are recurring activities that raise money for more research toward a cure, such as televised sports events and fundraisers. Many people enjoy getting involved with these activities to sustain support for their health. There are also additional resources available online that offer information and guidance for managing this disease. Diabetes can be very serious when it is not managed, and it is a lifelong illness. For people who maintain contact with their doctor, monitor their health, and receive support, this disease can continue to be controlled.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Article about living with diabetes.
- Living Active with Diabetes: Being connected with others with the disease.
- Diabetes Resource Center, Inc.: Inclusive site with information about managing various aspects of the disease.
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