Diabetes

Diabetes is a chronic medical condition that affects the body’s ability to properly process blood glucose, more commonly known as blood sugar. This sugar is an essential energy source for cells that make up muscles and tissues and is also the main fuel for the brain. Under normal circumstances, the pancreas releases the hormone insulin to aid the body in storing and using sugars and fats from foods eaten.  When the pancreas produces little or no insulin, diabetes occurs. There are three main types of diabetes: type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes.

 

Symptoms

 

When blood sugar levels rise, the following symptoms often occur and may depend on the type of diabetes present in a person.  It’s important to note that these symptoms could be mild and are difficult to spot unaware. 

 

  • Frequent urination

  • Increased hunger and thirst

  • Weight loss

  • Extreme fatigue

  • Vision problems

  • Sores that don’t heal

 

Additional symptoms may occur depending on gender.  Men may experience a lower sex drive, erectile dysfuncion, and a decrease in muscle strength.  Women can see an increase in urinary tract infections, yeast infections, and various skin conditions.

 

When it comes to gestational diabetes, symptoms are often never present.  Through a routine blood sugar check, doctors can determine if the condition is present. However, an increase in thirst or urination may occur.  

 

Causes

 

Type 1 diabetes

 

It isn’t clear as to what causes type 1 diabetes.  It is viewed in the category of autoimmune disease and seems that the immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys insulin-producing cells found in the pancreas.  It is also possible that genes play a role in the development of type 1 diabetes as well as certain viruses activating the immune system attack. 

Type 2 diabetes

 

Genetics and lifestyle are the main contributing factors to the development of type 2 diabetes.  Those with family members who have this type of diabetes are more likely to have it as well.  Other risk factors include:

 

  • Being overweight

  • Over the age of 45

  • Being inactive

  • Having had gestational diabetes

  • Having prediabetes

  • High blood pressure, high cholesterol, or high triglycerides

  • having African American, Hispanic or Latino American, Alaska Native, Pacific Islander, American Indian, or Asian American ancestry

Treatment

 

Following a healthy diet and maintaining a healthy weight is a key element in managing any type of diabetes. 

 

Type 1 diabetes

 

The main treatment for type 1 diabetes is insulin therapy.  A doctor will work with the patient to decide which type of insulin injections are best for them.

 

Type 2 diabetes    

 

Lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise, can help some people successfully manage their type 2 diabetes.  When this isn’t enough, there are medications available to assist in lowering blood sugar levels. 

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