A Guide to Understanding Diabetes

According to the American Diabetes Association, nearly 21 million people in the United States have diabetes. The primary cause of diabetes is an excessive amount of blood sugar in the body, combined with the body’s inability to use all of the sugar as a source of energy. In a normal scenario, the body takes the sugar that you eat and turns it into a simple sugar called glucose. The glucose circulates in your blood to give you energy. In a patient with diabetes, there is excessive blood sugar and the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin (which helps deliver glucose to your cells) to handle all of the sugar. The two main classifications of diabetes are type 1 and type 2.

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is generally a genetic disease passed on through generations of a family. It can affect children and adults alike, but most often begins in childhood and is carried through adulthood. The body produces only a small amount of insulin, if any at all. Eating excessive amounts of sugar can worsen the natural disruption caused by this specific classification.

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes often occurs because of a poor diet combined with lack of exercise. This classification most often occurs in adults over the age of 35, but the number of children getting this disease is rising because of poor food choices and lack of physical activity. A handful of people who contract type 2 diabetes are predisposed to it because of genetics.

Gestational Diabetes

Pregnant women sometimes experience a brief interaction with diabetes during pregnancy. This is called gestational diabetes. It happens in the second trimester and, in most cases, disappears after the baby is born. It is very important for a woman to keep in close contact with her obstetrician when this disease occurs. Gestational diabetes puts an expectant mother at higher risk for developing permanent type 2 diabetes. The risk for gestational diabetes in future pregnancies is higher, as well. The cause of gestational diabetes is not completely known, but there is a theory. Hormones from the placenta may be blocking the insulin that is being produced, causing the insulin not to be able to do its job properly.

What Are the Symptoms?

Symptoms of diabetes can be unnoticeable or mild in the early stages. Often, diabetes is not diagnosed until blood tests confirm the results. Symptoms of diabetes might include one or more of the following:

* Frequent urination

* Excessive thirst

* Nausea

* Blurred vision

* Fatigue

* Excessive weight loss, even if eating a normal amount of food

* Tingling of the hands and/or feet

* Ulcers (skin sores) that do not heal

* Acquiring frequent infections

When to Seek Professional Help

If you experience any of the symptoms listed above, you should contact your physician as soon as possible. Even if you do not have diabetes, these can be symptomatic of other potential diseases. You should have blood tests performed on a regular basis if diabetes runs in your family. Sugar levels are something that doctors check on a yearly basis, so getting a regular physical is something everyone should do.

What Is the Treatment?

Unfortunately, there are no known cures for diabetes. It can only be treated by keeping blood sugar low through proper diet and medication. A healthy diet and regular exercise are the primary things that you can control in dealing with diabetes. Diabetes medications are often in the form of pills (usually for type 2 diabetes) or insulin injections (commonly used for type 1 diabetes). Your doctor will develop the plan that works best for you, as diabetes treatment needs to be tailored to the individual. If left untreated, diabetes can result in the following complications:

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