Thirty million — that’s how many people are struggling with diabetes throughout the United States, and what’s worse it that diabetes affects more than 422 million people worldwide.
It is the leading cause of kidney failure, blindness, amputation, stroke, and heart failure. Living with diabetes can induce a massive physical, emotional and financial burden. Diabetes costs the American public more than $327 billion dollars a year.
What Is Diabetes?
Diabetes mellitus, commonly referred to as diabetes, is a chronic disease of the pancreas, marked by a sharp spike in blood glucose levels.
The glucose levels in our body are controlled by the hormone insulin, which is secreted by special cells in the pancreas called beta cells.
Cells absorb glucose, which is converted into energy. In the absence of insulin, glucose ends up floating around in the bloodstream, which can be dangerous and damaging to your eyes, kidneys, heart or, in severe cases, result in coma or death.
Types of Diabetes
Diabetes is due to either the pancreas not producing enough insulin or the cells of the body not responding properly to the insulin being produced. There are three main types of diabetes:
- Type 1 diabetes: results from the pancreas’ failure to produce enough insulin. This form was previously referred to as “insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus” or “juvenile diabetes.” The cause is unknown.
- Type 2 diabetes: begins with insulin resistance, a condition in which the cells fail to respond to insulin. As the disease progresses, a lack of insulin may also develop. This form was previously referred to as “non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus” or “adult-onset diabetes.” The primary cause is excessive body weight and not enough exercise.
- Gestational diabetes: is the third main form and occurs when pregnant women without a previous history of diabetes develop high blood sugar levels.
Causes of Diabetes
Research has not been able to determine the exact cause of type 1 diabetes. The majority of people with type 1 diabetes acquire it due to an existing auto-immune condition, which happens when the body’s immune system mistakenly recognizes the insulin-producing beta cells as foreign cells and attacks them.
However, over the years, several theories have been found to outline the causes of this chronic disease. Here are the different factors that determine your diabetes risk:
- Genetics: Your genetics plays an important role in calculating your risk of developing type 1 diabetes. Researchers have found at least 20 different chromosomal regions that are directly linked to the possibility of having type 1 diabetes in humans.
- Environmental factors: Several environmental factors have been linked to influence the expression of genes responsible for developing type 1 diabetes.
- Viruses: Certain non-conclusive research has postulated a theory which states that type 1 diabetes can develop as a virus triggered auto-immune response wherein the immune system will kill the beta cells of the pancreas along with virally-infected cells.
Symptoms of Diabetes
The signs and symptoms of this disease come quickly and include the following:
- Frequent urination
- Increased thirst
- Dry mouth
- Increased hunger
- Unintended weight loss
- Irritability and mood changes
- Blurred vision
Since the symptoms of diabetes develop over a period of time, they could go unnoticed for months or even years.
Prediabetes is a condition in which your blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be identified as full-blown diabetes.
Generally termed ‘borderline’ diabetes, prediabetes is a wake-up call that you may not be far from developing type 2 diabetes. The same tests that diagnose diabetes can also diagnose prediabetes.
Early detection and treatment of the condition can have a massive impact on your long-term health. However, a three-year delay in diagnosis could increase your risk of heart disease by 29 percent.
Type 1 diabetes mellitus is characterized by a sharp and sudden increase in the blood glucose profile and can be diagnosed by demonstrating this abnormality through one of the following tests:
- Glycated hemoglobin test (A1C): This blood test works by measuring the percentage of blood sugar in combination with the hemoglobin (the oxygen-carrying protein). The best part of this test is that it indicates a person’s blood glucose level over the past 2-3 months.
- What A1C levels indicate:
- Normal: Below 5.7 percent.
- Pre-Diabetes (A risk factor for type 2 diabetes): Between 5.7 – 6.4 percent
- Diabetes: 6.5 percent or higher.
- Fasting Plasma Glucose test: Commonly referred to as the FPG test, the fasting plasma glucose test has been the standard test used for diagnosing diabetes. A simple blood test in its nature, the blood is drawn out for analysis after an 8 hour long fast.
- What do FPG levels indicate?
- Normal: Below 100 mg/dL (or 5.5 mmol/L)
- Pre-Diabetes: Between 100 – 125 mg/dL (5.5 – 7.0 mmol/L)
- Diabetes: 126 mg/dL (7.0 mmol/L) or higher
- Oral Glucose Tolerance Test: More commonly referred as OGTT, this test is carried out in two stages:
- An FPG test is first carried out after fasting.
- A blood test is then carried out 2 hours later after making the patient drink a special glucose solution.
- OGTT levels indicate:
- Below 140 mg/dL.
- Pre-Diabetes. Between 140 – 199 mg/dL
- 200 mg/dL or higher.
Diabetes is a serious chronic illness with many facets that need to be considered. Symptoms and diagnosis of diabetes are the first steps to identifying the presence of this health condition. Read more about diabetes here and learn about some of the natural treatments that can help you or your loved one cope with some of the side effects of diabetes.
How many people have diabetes?
30 million people are struggling with diabetes throughout the U.S. while diabetes affects more than 422 million people worldwide.
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