Understanding Diabetes Refresh

Posted by Pharmacist on April 03, 2011

Diabetes is a chronic (lifelong) disease that is marked by high levels of sugar in the blood.  25.8 million children and adults in the United States -8.3% of the population- have diabetes.  7 million people in the U.S. have undiagnosed diabetes, and 1.9 million new cases of diabetes were diagnosed in people 20 years and older alone.  One out of every 3 people with diabetes are unaware they have this chronic condition.

There are three major types of diabetes: Type 1 diabetes, Type 2 diabetes, and gestational diabetes.  All three types share one main characteristic- the body’s inability to either make or to use insulin.  The body needs insulin in order to use glucose (which comes from food you eat) for energy.  When you don’t have enough insulin, glucose stays in the blood, creating high levels of blood sugar.  Over time, this high blood sugar causes damage to the kidneys, heart, nerves, eyes and other organs.

Type 1 diabetes starts in childhood.  The risk factors for Type 1 diabetes are:

– Genetics and family history

– Diseases of the pancreas

– Infection or illness (some rare infections and illnesses can damage the pancreas and      cause Type 1 diabetes).

Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body cant use the insulin that is produced, a condition called insulin resistance.  Typically it begins in adulthood, but it can begin at any time in life.  Because of the fact that childhood obesity is on the rise, Type 2 diabetes is being found increasingly in teenagers.  The risk factors for developing Type 2 diabetes are:

-Obesity or being overweight

-Impaired glucose tolerance or impaired fasting glucose

-Insulin resistance

-High blood pressure

-History of gestational diabetes

-Sedentary lifestyle

-Family history


Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes triggered by pregnancy.  It is caused by hormones that are produced by the placenta during pregnancy, or by too little insulin. Risk factors for Gestational diabetes are:

-Obesity or being overweight

-Previous glucose intolerance

-Family history


Many of the symptoms of diabetes seems harmless, which is one of the reasons diabetes often goes undiagnosed.  Early detection of diabetes symptoms and treatment can reduce the chance of developing the complications of diabetes.

Symptoms of Type 1 diabetes are:

-Frequent urination

-Unusual thirst

-Extreme hunger

-Unusual weight loss

-Extreme fatigue and irritability

Symptoms of Type 2 diabetes are:

-Any of the Type 1 symptoms

-Frequent infections

-Blurred vision

-Cuts/bruises that are slow to heal

-Tingling/numbness in the hands or feet

-Recurring skin, gum, or bladder infections

Often people with Type 2 diabetes show no symptoms.

You can prevent or delay the onset of Type 2 diabetes through a heathy lifestyle.  Here are some tips:

  1. Get more physical activity.  Exercise can help you lose weight, lower blood sugar, and boost your sensitivity to insulin.
  2. Get plenty of fiber.  Foods high in fiber including fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds.
  3. Eat whole grains.  Whole grains may reduce your risk of diabetes and help maintain blood sugar levels.
  4. Lose extra weight.  If you are overweight, prevention will depend on weight loss.
  5. Healthy diet. Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables.  Skip the fad diets.

Make sure you share your diabetes concerns with your doctor.  Early detection is key.

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