Understanding Diabetes: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

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Diabetes is a chronic condition in which the body is not capable of regulating the amount of sugar in the blood. It is a result of the problem with how your body produces or uses insulin. Insulin is the hormone produced by the pancreas that moves sugar, called glucose, from the bloodstream into muscle, fat and liver cells to be used or stored as fuel. If the pancreas is not able to produce enough amount of insulin and/or if the cells do not respond normally to the insulin, you will have high blood sugar as a result of your body’s inability to move glucose from the blood into muscle and fat cells and because your liver produces too much glucose that it releases into the blood.

Types of Diabetes and Their Causes

Type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes are the two major types of diabetes. The causes and risk factors for each type are different.

Type 1 Diabetes. This type of diabetes affects children and young adults most often but it can also occur at any age. In this type of diabetes, the pancreas cells that produce the insulin stop working and the body therefore, produces very little or no insulin at all. The cause is not known. Daily injections of insulin are required to allow proper functioning of the body of the person with diabetes.

Type 2 Diabetes. This is the more common type of diabetes. Adults are most often diagnosed with this type of diabetes although recently, with the prevalence of obesity, even teenagers and young adults are getting afflicted by it. Some people may not know that they already have the disease.

There are other causes of the disease and people who have the diabetes from these causes cannot be classified as having either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. An example is gestational diabetes, a high blood sugar condition that develops during pregnancy in a woman who has no diabetes previously.

There is no medical basis to the belief that you are most likely to have diabetes if your parent or siblings have diabetes.

The notion that eating too much sugar over a long period of time may cause you to have Type 2 diabetes is also not true. It is the problem on how your body uses or produces insulin that causes diabetes. Eating too much sugar though may make you overweight or obese, a risk factor in diabetes. Your body may find it difficult to properly use insulin when you are overweight. This is what is called insulin resistance. Losing extra weight and being physically active can prevent or even reverse insulin resistance.

Aside from being overweight, the other risk factors for Type 2 diabetes are having high blood pressure and being over 45 years of age.

Symptoms of Diabetes

Check with your health care provider if your blood sugar level is higher than 200 mg/dL.

High blood sugar level can cause any of the following symptoms:
Blurry vision
Fatigue
Excess thirst
Hunger
Frequent urination
Weight loss

Some people with high blood sugar do not feel any symptoms because Type 2 diabetes develops very slowly. On the other hand, it takes a short period for the symptoms of Type 1 diabetes to develop. People affected by it may already be very sick by the time they are diagnosed.

Diabetes may cause several health problems over time. These are called diabetes complications, and include damage to your eyes, kidneys, heart, nerves, blood vessels, skin and immune system.

Treatment for Diabetes

There is no cure for Type 1 diabetes.

Diet and exercise are the main treatment for Type 2 diabetes. Learn how much fat, protein and carbohydrates you need in your diet by working with your health care provider. Some people who have diabetes and are successful in their weight loss and exercise program no longer need medicine.

Diabetes medicine and insulin may be needed if you have trouble managing your blood sugar level.

Visit your health care provider at least two to four times a week to prevent diabetes complications

Keeping your blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol level in a healthy range is the key to preventing Type 2 diabetes. Healthy diet and an active lifestyle are the most effective means to achieve this.

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