You’ve probably heard of diabetes, but do you really know what it is? Here, we discuss what you need to know about diabetes.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a disease that affects your body’s ability to process the sugar (glucose) in the bloodstream. With diabetes, either your pancreas’ ability to produce insulin is affected or the insulin your pancreas does produce is not working optimally. The end result is that too much glucose stays in your bloodstream for too long and this can lead to serious health issues.
What are the symptoms of diabetes?
Symptoms of diabetes can vary from person to person. Sometimes, a person with diabetes may have such mild symptoms that they go unnoticed. Generally, signs of diabetes include:
• Frequent urination
• Feeling very thirsty
• Feeling very hungry (even though you are eating)
• Extreme fatigue
• Blurred vision
• Slow-healing cuts and bruises
• Weight loss even with increased food intake
• Tingling, pain, or numbness in the hands/feet
• Frequent infections
What causes diabetes?
It is important to understand how your body handles glucose (blood sugar). First, the food you eat gets broken down into a source of energy your body can use called glucose (sugar) and this sugar is released into the bloodstream to feed your cells. Insulin, a substance produced in your pancreas, is released into the bloodstream when the sugar level begins to rise in your blood. Insulin acts like a key to unlock the doors of your cells so the sugar can enter and feed your cells, giving you energy to function.
What causes Type 1 diabetes to occur is still unclear. What is known, though, is that your immune system attacks the insulin-producing cells in your pancreas, leaving you with little to no insulin. When this happens, sugar gets built up in your bloodstream instead of entering into your cells. Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults. Patients with Type 1 diabetes will need to take insulin for the rest of their lives.
Type 2 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes occurs when your body does not use insulin effectively. Your pancreas tries to produce more insulin to overcome the difficulty and regulate blood sugar levels, but over time it cannot keep up. It is believed that genetic and environmental factors play a role in the development of Type 2 diabetes. In addition, being overweight and inactive has been linked to Type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes is usually treated with insulin or other oral and injectable medications, a healthy diet, and physical activity. In extremely rare cases, a pancreas transplant is needed. Generally, medications, monitoring blood sugar levels, education, and healthy eating and exercise are used to help people manage their diabetes.
Can it be prevented?
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that cannot be prevented. Type 2 diabetes can be prevented, or at minimum, the onset delayed. It all goes back to living a healthy lifestyle. Eat a well-balanced diet filled with fruits, vegetables and whole grains. In addition, try to exercise at least 30 minutes every day. A walk, bike ride or swimming laps are all great ways to get moving. If you are overweight, losing the extra weight can help prevent Type 2 diabetes.
If you have any questions or believe you are experiencing symptoms of diabetes, please see your primary care physician.