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Diabetes

Types of Diabetes | Complications | Screening | Treatment

DiabetesAccording to the latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 30 million Americans have diabetes mellitus, which is commonly referred to as diabetes. Many of those people have no idea they have diabetes and millions more are at risk of developing it.

Health Assessment Our TYPE 2 DIABETES RISK ASSESSMENT can help you learn more about your own risk factors for the most common type of diabetes, type 2 diabetes.

Simply click on the link for the form. Fill it out online to learn more about how specific things affect the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. When you're done, you may want to print it out and share it with your doctor. Any information you enter will NOT be saved once you close the window. This is to protect your privacy. When you're done, simply close the form window, and continue reading.

If you have diabetes, your body has problems converting the food you eat into energy. The danger of this lies in the fact that if untreated, diabetes can damage the eyes, kidneys, nerves, heart and blood vessels. (Read about "The Eye" "Diabetes and Kidney Disease" "Nervous System" "The Heart & Cardiovascular System") Therefore, whenever present, it's essential to diagnose, monitor and treat diabetes correctly.

Diabetes mellitus should not be confused with diabetes insipidus (DI). Diabetes insipidus and diabetes mellitus are unrelated, although they can have similar signs and symptoms, like excessive thirst and excessive urination. (Read about "Diabetes Insipidus")

Below find information to help you learn more about diabetes, its causes, complications and how to live with it.

Insulin and blood sugar

The Liver, Pancreas and GallbladderNormally, the food we eat is broken down into glucose, which is a form of sugar. The glucose passes into the bloodstream, where it is used by cells for growth and energy. For cells to use glucose, however, insulin must be present. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas, a large gland behind the stomach. (Read about "Endocrine System") If the insulin isn't present, or if the cells don't respond to it (commonly referred to as insulin-resistance), the glucose stays in the bloodstream, causing a rise in the blood sugar or blood glucose level. When blood sugar levels are too high it's called hyperglycemia; when blood sugar levels fall too low it's called hypoglycemia. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) says conditions that can lead to hypoglycemia in people with diabetes include taking too much medication, missing or delaying a meal, eating too little food for the amount of insulin taken, exercising too strenuously, drinking too much alcohol, or any combination of these factors.

Types of diabetes

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) and NIDDK say there are different types of diabetes and insulin-resistance:

Diabetes can also result from specific genetic conditions (Read about "Genetics"), as well as from surgery, medications, infections, pancreatic disease, and other illnesses.

Symptoms of diabetes

Symptoms of diabetes can vary, but the American Academy of Family Physicians says typical symptoms, especially for Type 1 diabetes, include:

In Type 2 diabetes there may not be any symptoms, especially initially. This is why screening and lifestyle changes are so important, especially if you have any of the risk factors for diabetes. Type 2 diabetes occurs most often after the age of 40 (although the American Diabetes Association says there is an alarming - potentially lifestyle-related - increase in the number of people under age 40 now developing this kind of diabetes). It's estimated that millions of people have type 2 diabetes and do not know it. Talk to your doctor about being tested for diabetes, especially if any of the following risk factors apply to you:

Complications of diabetes

Left untreated or uncontrolled, diabetes can cause severe complications including heart disease, stroke, blindness, cataracts (Read about "Cataracts"), kidney disease and nerve damage that could lead to amputation.

Screening for diabetes

During a screening, medical personnel will test to see if your blood glucose level is elevated. The fasting plasma glucose test is the preferred test for diagnosing type 1 or type 2 diabetes, according to NIDDK. It is most reliable when done in the morning. You may want to discuss the best time to take the test with your doctor.

NIDDK says a diagnosis of diabetes can be made after positive results on any one of the following tests, with confirmation from a second positive test on a different day:

These tests measure whether or not your blood glucose level is higher than what's considered normal. If it's high, you may be able to restore your blood glucose level to a normal level through diet and exercise. Your doctor may also prescribe medication or insulin. As with any medication, talk with your doctor about possible side effects or interactions, especially if you're also on medication for high blood pressure.

Gestational diabetes is diagnosed based on plasma glucose values measured during the OGTT, according to NIDDK. Glucose levels are normally lower during pregnancy, so the levels for diagnosis of diabetes in pregnancy are lower. If a pregnant woman has two plasma glucose values meeting or exceeding any of the following numbers, she is considered to have gestational diabetes:

Monitoring and treating diabetes

For someone with diabetes, healthy eating, physical activity, oral medications and/or insulin are the basic therapies for controlling blood sugar levels.

Diet - It's essential that someone with any type of diabetes follow a healthy diet. (Read about "Dietary Guidelines") You should work with your doctor, registered dietician or healthcare provider to develop a meal plan. This is a guide that tells you how much and what kinds of food you can choose to eat at meals and snack times. By reading food labels (Read about "Food Labels"), buying healthy foods and following your food plan, you can help keep your diet on track.

Monitoring blood sugar - It's also imperative for anyone with diabetes to monitor their blood sugar level carefully. Options include:

Insulin - Insulin is essential for anyone with Type 1 diabetes. People with Type 2 diabetes may need to take insulin as well. The amount of insulin must be balanced with food intake and daily activities. Insulin cannot be taken orally because it would be broken down during digestion. Insulin is usually injected. ADA says, when injected, it must be injected into the fat under your skin for it to get into your blood and keep your blood sugar level as close to normal as possible. Insulin can be injected through a syringe, a pen or through a pump system that feeds the insulin into the body through a needle or catheter inserted just under the skin. There are also different types of insulin. They vary in how soon they start to work, when they reach their full strength, and how long they last in the body. ADA says insulin should never be stored in very hot or very cold locations. When using insulin, blood glucose levels must be closely monitored through frequent blood glucose checking. NIDDK says when blood glucose levels drop too low - a condition known as hypoglycemia - a person can become nervous, shaky and confused. Judgment can be impaired. If blood glucose falls too low, a person can faint. This is considered a medical emergency and emergency personnel should be called. Your healthcare provider can give you instructions on how to deal with milder episodes, and on ways to prevent or minimize them.

There is also a form of insulin that can be inhaled with meals for patients with diabetes requiring mealtime insulin. FDA says it is not a substitute for long-acting insulin. The inhalable insulin must be used in combination with long-acting insulin in patients with type 1 diabetes, according to FDA, and it is not recommended for the treatment of diabetic ketoacidosis, or for patients who smoke.

Medications - In addition to insulin, there are also other medications. ADA says there are different classes of diabetes drugs. Some drugs work to help the body make more insulin. Others sensitize the body to the insulin that is already present. Others slow or block the breakdown of starches and some sugars. Still others enhance the body's own ability to lower blood sugar. There is also a class of drugs that help improve A1C without causing hypoglycemia by preventing the breakdown of a naturally occurring compound in the body.

The drugs may be used alone or in combination. It's important to ask your doctor about any side effects to be aware of, as well as any potential interactions. (Read about "Medicine Safety")

ADA says good control of blood glucose levels, a healthy diet and regular check-ups are the keys to preventing diabetes-related eye and kidney problems:

Dental care is also important, including regular check-ups. CDC says that people with diabetes are more likely to have problems with their teeth and gums. (Read about "Oral Health")

As mentioned above, it is also essential that people with diabetes be aware of their risk of heart disease, stroke, and heart attack, and work to reduce their risks, both by monitoring their diabetes and goals, and by controlling their weight and blood cholesterol with a low-saturated-fat, low-cholesterol diet and regular exercise.

In some cases, where there are severe complications of type 1 diabetes, a pancreas transplant can be considered. (Read about "Transplants") However, this is a serious, life changing operation, and potential benefits and risks must be weighed carefully.

Ideally, everyone with diabetes should be monitored frequently by a healthcare team knowledgeable in the care of diabetes. The best way to reduce the risk of complications of diabetes is by staying educated about it and by mastering the skills necessary to control your blood glucose levels and keep them as close to the normal range as you can.

Related Information:

    Blood Donation Guidelines

    Pancreatitis

    Primary Immunodeficiency

    Coronary Heart Disease

    Digestive System

    Medicine Safety

    Deep Vein Thrombosis

    Losing Weight

All Concept Communications material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.

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