What is Diabetes?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the United States. There are 8 million people living in the United States with undiagnosed diabetes.
The Global Report on diabetes by the World Health Organization in 2014 states that there has been an global increase in the incidence of diabetes from 108 million in 1980 to 422 million in 2014.
In the United States, 9.4% of the population had diabetes in 2015.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder whereas, type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disorder that can be influenced by external factors. It is more common than type 1 diabetes.
- What is Diabetes?
- What is the difference between type 1 & type 2 Diabetes
- What are the symptoms of Diabetes?
- Should you get tested for Diabetes?
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes mellitus is a condition that occurs when the body is unable to process glucose properly.
Glucose refers to your blood sugar, it is an essential source of energy for cell functions in the body. If your body is unable to functionally use glucose, it can cause serious side effects and health problems.
Insulin regulates blood sugar levels. Excess glucose is stored in the liver, fat cells and muscles via chemical signals made by insulin. When the body requires extra energy, for example, when adrenaline or cortisol levels rise, or if you have gone a long time without eating, glucose will be released from the stores and used to provide the body with sufficient energy.
Insulin balances out sugar highs and sugar lows. If glucose levels rises, for instance, after eating, the pancreas will release insulin into the blood to balance blood sugar.
What is the difference between type 1 & type 2 Diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes:
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks beta cells in the pancreas. Beta cells produce insulin. If the cells are damaged, they will be able to make little to no insulin and therefore there is limited regulation of glucose levels.
Type 1 diabetes was once referred to as juvenile-onset diabetes as it was most likely to appear during childhood or early adulthood but it can now present itself at any point in one’s lifetime.
10% of those diagnosed with diabetes in the United States are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. People are typically diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when they are under the age of thirty.
Type 2 diabetes:
Prediabetes occurs when there is an abnormal level of glucose in the blood. It is a risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes.
Prediabetes is generally automatic. However, if prediabetes continues to develop without being treated, you may develop type 2 diabetes, early signs may include chronic fatigue, issues with eyesight, increased thirst and urinating much more than usual.
Type 2 follows prediabetes. It is a chronic condition caused by a mixture of genetics and lifestyle choices. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body cannot process insulin. Insulin is responsible for moving glucose into the cells to mobilize energy stores for cell functions.
Type 2 diabetes was once referred to as adult onset diabetes as it is more common in adults, however as obesity becomes more prevalent, there is an increasing number of children being affected by the disorder. Sufferers of type 2 diabetes will have high blood sugar and low insulin causing a disruption to metabolic function.
90% of those who are diagnosed with diabetes in the United States are diagnosed with type 2.
What are the symptoms of Diabetes?
- Fatigue: when the cells become depleted of glucose, they are unable to function at an optimal level causing chronic fatigue.
- Thirst & dry mouth: a high concentration of glucose in the blood causes the body to pull fluid from surrounding tissues causing persistent thirst and frequent urination.
- Unexplained weight loss: if the body can’t process glucose, the body may begin to use muscle and fat cells causing you to lose weight regardless of whether you have changed your diet or not.
- Weakened immunity: disrupted cell functions makes it more difficult for the body to ward off infections.
- Blurred vision: high levels of glucose may cause dehydration in the eyes and blurred vision.
Should you get tested for Diabetes?
Diabetes can lead to excess sugar in the blood, causing an array of health conditions including stroke, heart disease, atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries) and neuropathy (nerve damage).
The HbA1c test is a common test which will offer a broad picture of the level of glucose in your blood.
Hemoglobin (Hb for short) is a protein in your red blood cells that carries oxygen around your body. It is the part of your blood that makes it red. Glucose or sugar in your blood can stick to hemoglobin, this makes HbA1c.
The more glucose in your blood, the higher your level of HbA1c will be. Red blood cells in your body survive for 8-12 weeks before they are renewed, by measuring HbA1c, you can get an idea of your average blood glucose level of the last 2-3 months.
You should take regular tests for HbA1c if you are suffering from prediabetes, type 1 or type 2 diabetes to checks the level of glucose in your blood.
If your immediate relative has type 1 diabetes, you are 10-20 times more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes than the general population. Type 2 diabetes is caused by a mixture of nature and nurture, while you are more at risk of developing type 2 diabetes if a family member has it, you are more susceptible to type 2 diabetes if you have an unhealthy lifestyle. A poor diet and lack of exercise can speed up the onset of diabetes while a healthy and active lifestyle can slow it down.
If you are presenting with symptoms of diabetes as listed above, you should take a diabetes test to know your risk. It’s good to know.
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Written by Hannah Kingston | Approved by Medical Director Dominic Rowley