|What is Diabetes?|
Diabetes mellitus, often simply referred to as diabetes, is a group of metabolic diseases in which a person has high blood sugar, either because the body does not produce enough insulin, or because cells do not respond to the insulin that is produced. There are three main types of diabetes:
Type 1 diabetes: results from the body's failure to produce insulin, and presently requires the person to inject insulin. (Also referred to as insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, IDDM for short, and juvenile diabetes.)
Type 2 diabetes: results from insulin resistance, a condition in which cells fail to use insulin properly, sometimes combined with an absolute insulin deficiency. (Formerly referred to as non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, NIDDM for short, and adult-onset diabetes.)
Gestational diabetes: is when pregnant women, who have never had diabetes before, have a high blood glucose level during pregnancy. It may precede development of type 2 DM.
• Abnormal thirst and a dry mouth
• Frequent urination
• Extreme tiredness/lack of energy
• Sudden weight loss
• Slow-healing wounds
• Recurrent infections
• Blurred vision
• Tingling or numbness in the hands or feet
• Frequent bladder, skin or gum infections
All forms of diabetes have been treatable since insulin became available in 1921, and type 2 diabetes may be controlled with medications. Both type 1 and 2 are chronic conditions that usually cannot be cured. Pancreas transplants have been tried with limited success in type 1 DM; gastric bypass surgery has been successful in many with morbid obesity and type 2 DM. Gestational diabetes usually resolves after delivery. Diabetes without proper treatments can cause many complications. Acute complications include hypoglycemia, diabetic ketoacidosis, or nonketotic hyperosmolar coma. Serious long-term complications include cardiovascular disease, chronic renal failure, retinal damage. Adequate treatment of diabetes is thus important, as well as blood pressure control and lifestyle factors such as smoking cessation and maintaining a healthy body weight.
As of 2000 at least 171 million people worldwide suffer from diabetes, or 2.8% of the population. Type 2 diabetes is by far the most common, affecting 90 to 95% of the U.S. diabetes population.
Type 1 diabetes is partly inherited and then triggered by certain infections, with some evidence pointing at Coxsackie B4 virus. There is a genetic element in individual susceptibility to some of these triggers which has been traced to particular HLA genotypes (i.e., the genetic "self" identifiers relied upon by the immune system). However, even in those who have inherited the susceptibility, type 1 diabetes mellitus seems to require an environmental trigger.
Type 2 diabetes is due primarily to lifestyle factors and genetics.
Diabetes mellitus is a chronic disease which cannot be cured except in very specific situations. Management concentrates on keeping blood sugar levels as close to normal ("euglycemia") as possible, without causing hypoglycemia. This can usually be accomplished with diet, exercise, and use of appropriate medications (insulin in the case of type 1 diabetes, oral medications as well as possibly insulin in type 2 diabetes).
Patient education, understanding, and participation is vital since the complications of diabetes are far less common and less severe in people who have well-managed blood sugar levels. The goal of treatment is an HbA1C level of 6.5%, but should not be lower than that, and may be set higher. Attention is also paid to other health problems that may accelerate the deleterious effects of diabetes. These include smoking, elevated cholesterol levels, obesity, high blood pressure, and lack of regular exercise.