Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas, this hormone helps transform glucose from the food you consume into energy. Diabetes occurs when the body produces little to no insulin or it becomes resistant to the insulin, which results in the glucose not reaching your cells to be used for energy.
Types of Diabetes
Diabetes has two main types, including type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes.
- Type 1 diabetes, formerly called insulin-dependent diabetes or juvenile diabetes, is a condition where the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or does not produce any insulin at all. This type of diabetes usually develops during childhood or adolescence, but in some cases, it can also develop in adults.
- Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes that occurs when your body becomes resistant to insulin or when your body only produces a small amount of insulin that is not enough to maintain normal glucose levels. Normally, type 2 diabetes happens to adults, but today, many children suffer from this condition.
There are also conditions known as potentially reversible diabetes, which include prediabetes and gestational diabetes. Prediabetes happens when someone’s blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but it is not high enough to be categorized as diabetes. Gestational diabetes happens when someone is pregnant but usually resolved when the baby is delivered. However, it is very rare.
Cause of Diabetes
It is still largely unknown what causes type 1 diabetes. The condition is known to happen when the immune system attacks and damages the cells that produce insulin in the pancreas, which leaves you with only a small amount or no insulin. This results in the build-up of sugar in your bloodstream. Type 1 diabetes is said to be caused by genetics or environmental factors such as exposure to viruses.
Type 2 diabetes – and prediabetes because it can develop into type 2 diabetes – is caused by the resistance of your cells to insulin’s actions and the pancreas cannot make enough insulin to overcome that resistance. Just like type 1 diabetes, the reason why the condition happens is still unclear, but it is believed that environmental factors and genetics also play a role. Although not everyone with this type of diabetes is overweight, being overweight is highly linked to this condition.
Although the cause of both types is still unknown, there are some risk factors that may signal the development of the conditions. For type 1 diabetes, the risk factors include autoantibodies, environment (such as exposure to a viral illness), family history, and geography (some countries have higher rates of type 1 diabetes). For type 2 diabetes, race (Asian-Americans, Hispanics, Black People, and American Indians are at higher risk), family history, inactivity, weight, and high blood pressure are some of the risk factors.
Gestational diabetes happens when the hormones produced by the placenta to sustain the pregnancy make your cells resistant to insulin. In normal conditions, your pancreas reacts by producing extra insulin in order to overcome the resistance. However, in some rare cases, the pancreas is unable to keep up, which results in too much glucose staying in your blood. The risk factors for this type of diabetes are age, weight, race, and family history.
Symptoms of Diabetes
The symptoms of diabetes may vary, usually depends on how high your blood sugar is. Symptoms tend to be more severe with type 1 diabetes. Some of the symptoms are:
- Extreme hunger and fatigue, which happens because your body failed to convert the food you consume into glucose that the cells use for energy.
- Increased thirst and frequent urination. Normally, a person has to pee between 4 to 7 times a day, but if you have diabetes, you pee a lot more, which also makes you very thirsty.
- Blurred vision. Since the fluid levels in your body are changing, the lenses in your eyes swell up, making your eyes unable to focus.
Other symptoms of diabetes include unexplained weight loss, ketones in your urine, irritability, slow-healing sores, and frequent infections. All of these symptoms are warning signs of diabetes, if you suspect you or a member of your family may have diabetes because they experience these symptoms, contact your doctor immediately.
There is currently no cure to diabetes, however, the disease can be managed. Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the most important parts of managing diabetes. You can do this by having a healthy eating plan and lead an active life.
- Having a healthy diet include cutting down on saturated fats as well as refined sugars and carbohydrates. Add foods that are high in fibre and nutrition, but low in calories and fat. Eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. It might be hard to understand the best food to eat and how much you should eat, but you can get the help of a registered dietitian to create an eating plan.
- People who have diabetes, or those who are healthy, need regular exercise because it can lower the blood sugar level and increase the sensitivity to insulin. Ask your doctor which exercise is ok for you, choose the activities you enjoy. You can swim, bike, run, or walk and make it part of your regular routine.
Insulin injections, insulin pumps, regular blood sugar checks, and carbohydrate count are some of the treatments for type 1 diabetes. For type 2 diabetes, treatment revolves around lifestyle changes, blood sugar monitors, diabetes medications, and insulin.
- Insulin is required for people with type 1 diabetes to survive. Some people with type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes may also need insulin therapy. There are numerous types of insulin, such as long-acting insulin and rapid-acting insulin. The type of insulin for you will depend on your needs, your doctor can prescribe a mixture of insulin types. Insulin is injected using an insulin pen or a fine needle and syringe. However, there is also an insulin pump.
- Medications can also be prescribed as well. There are diabetes medications to stimulate the pancreas to produce more insulin. Some medications also inhibit the production of glucose from the liver, which makes your body need less insulin to transfer sugar into your cells.
- Transplantation can be an option for people with type 1 diabetes. You will no longer need insulin therapy if you have a successful pancreas transplant.
- Blood sugar monitoring can be done four times a day and this is done to ensure that your blood sugar level is within the target range. If you have type 2 diabetes and you are not taking insulin, you usually can monitor your blood sugar level less frequently.