What is Diabetes?
WHAT IS DIABETES?
Diabetes can be defined in two ways depending on what insufficiencies are present in the body. A normal healthy human body will take glycogen and convert it into a useable form of energy (glucose) to be released in the blood. If too much glucose is formed it stimulates the pancreas to release insulin, which motors, regulates, and balances the amount of glucose (blood sugar) released in the blood.
MORE ON BLOOD SUGAR REGULATION
When you eat, your body breaks down carbohydrates from foods — such as bread, rice, pasta, vegetables, fruit and milk products into molecules of glucose. When glucose levels rise, certain cells (beta cells) in your pancreas release insulin. This allows glucose to enter the cells and provide the fuel your cells need to function properly. Any extra glucose is stored in your liver and muscles in the form of glycogen.
Normal blood sugar levels are less than 100 mg/dL after not eating (fasting) for at least eight hours. And they’re less than 140 mg/dL two hours after eating. During the day, levels tend to be at their lowest just before meals.
The A1C test is a common blood test used to diagnose type 1 and type 2 diabetes and to monitor how well you’re managing your diabetes. The A1C test goes by many other names, including glycated hemoglobin, glycosylated hemoglobin, hemoglobin A1C and HbA1c.
The A1C test result reflects your average blood sugar level for the past two to three months. Specifically, the A1C test measures what percentage of your hemoglobin — a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen — is coated with sugar (glycated). The higher your A1C level, the poorer your blood sugar control and the higher your risk of diabetes complications.
- A normal A1C level is below 5.7 percent
- Prediabetes is between 5.7 to 6.4 percent. Having prediabetes is a risk factor for getting type 2 diabetes. People with prediabetes may need retests every year.
- Type 2 diabetes is above 6.5 percent
If you have diabetes, you should have the A1C test at least twice a year. The A1C goal for many people with diabetes is below 7.
THE ROLE OF INSULIN
Once a significant number of islet cells are destroyed, you’ll produce little or no insulin. Insulin is a hormone that comes from a gland situated behind and below the stomach (pancreas).
- The pancreas secretes insulin into the bloodstream.
- Insulin circulates, allowing sugar to enter your cells.
- Insulin lowers the amount of sugar in your bloodstream.
- As your blood sugar level drops, so does the secretion of insulin from your pancreas.
THE ROLE OF GLUCOSE
-Glucose is a main source of energy for the cells that make up muscles and other tissues.
-Glucose comes from two major sources: food and your liver.
- Sugar is absorbed into the bloodstream, where it enters cells with the help of insulin.
- Your liver stores glucose as glycogen.
When your glucose levels are low, such as when you haven’t eaten in a while, the liver breaks down the stored glycogen into glucose to keep your glucose levels within a normal range. Here glucagon (secreted by alpha cells) is high. After you have eaten a meal however insulin (secreted by beta cells) is high.
COMPLICATIONS AND PATHOLOGY
Diabetes, once known as juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes, is a chronic autoimmune condition in which the pancreas produces little insulin or no insulin at all. Insulin is a hormone needed to allow sugar (glucose) to enter cells to produce energy. Type 1 diabetes is thought to be caused by an autoimmune reaction (the body attacks itself by mistake) that stops your body from making insulin. About 5% of the people who have diabetes have type 1. Here glucose is left barley checked or unchecked and high levels of glucose are found in the blood.
- Increased thirst.
- Frequent urination.
- Bed-wetting in children who previously didn’t wet the bed during the night.
- Extreme hunger.
- Unintended weight loss.
- Irritability and other mood changes.
- Fatigue and weakness.
- Blurred vision.
Different factors, including genetics and some viruses, may contribute to type 1 diabetes. Although type 1 diabetes usually appears during childhood or adolescence, it can develop in adults as well.
Diabetes mellitus refers to a group of diseases that affect how your body uses blood sugar (glucose). Glucose is vital to your health because it’s an important source of energy for the cells that make up your muscles and tissues. In type 2 diabetes, your body isn’t able to effectively use insulin to bring glucose into your cells. This causes your body to rely on alternative energy sources in your tissues, muscles, and organs. This is a chain reaction that can ca People with type 2 diabetes are said to have insulin resistance.
People who are middle-aged or older are most likely to get this kind of diabetes. But type 2 diabetes also affects kids and teens, mainly because of childhood obesity.
It’s the most common type of diabetes. There are about 29 million people in the U.S. with type 2 diabetes. Another 84 million have prediabetes, meaning their blood sugar (or blood glucose) is high but not high enough to be diabetes yet. The symptoms of type 2 diabetes can be so mild that you don’t notice them. About 8 million people who have it don’t know it.
- Being very thirsty
- Peeing a lot
- Blurry vision
- Being cranky
- Tingling or numbness in your hands or feet
- Fatigue/feeling worn out
- Wounds that don’t heal
- Yeast infections that keep coming back
- Weight loss without trying
- Getting more infections
- Dark rashes around your neck or armpits (called acanthosis nigricans) that are often a sign of insulin resistance
Unlike people with type 1 diabetes, people with type 2 diabetes make insulin. But the insulin their pancreas secretes either isn’t enough or their body can’t recognize the insulin and use it properly (doctors call this insulin resistance).
When there isn’t enough insulin or the insulin isn’t used as it should be, glucose (sugar) can’t get into your cells. It builds up in your bloodstream instead. This can damage many areas of the body. Also, since cells aren’t getting the glucose they need, they don’t work like they should.
While not everyone with type 2 diabetes is overweight, obesity and an inactive lifestyle are two of the most common causes of type 2 diabetes. It is also responsible for about 90% to 95% of diabetes cases in the United States. Remember when you’re healthy, the pancreas (an organ behind the stomach) releases insulin to help your body store and use sugar from the food you eat, here,
- Your pancreas doesn’t make any insulin.
- Your pancreas makes very little insulin.
- Your body doesn’t respond like it should to insulin
Type 2 diabetes can be easy to ignore, especially in the early stages when you’re feeling fine. But diabetes affects many major organs, including your heart, blood vessels, nerves, eyes and kidneys. Controlling your blood sugar levels can help prevent these complications. Although long-term complications of diabetes develop gradually, they can eventually be disabling or even life-threatening. Some of the potential complications of diabetes include:
- Heart and blood vessel disease – Diabetes dramatically increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and narrowing of blood vessels (atherosclerosis).
- Nerve damage (neuropathy). Excess sugar can cause tingling, numbness, burning or pain that usually begins at the tips of the toes or fingers and gradually spreads upward. Eventually, you may lose all sense of feeling in the affected limbs.
Damage to the nerves that control digestion can cause problems with nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation. For men, erectile dysfunction may be an issue.
- Kidney damage – Diabetes can sometimes lead to kidney failure or irreversible end-stage kidney disease, which may require dialysis or a kidney transplant.
- Eye damage – Diabetes increases the risk of serious eye diseases, such as cataracts and glaucoma, and may damage the blood vessels of the retina, potentially leading to blindness.
- Slow healing – Left untreated, cuts and blisters can become serious infections, which may heal poorly. Severe damage might require toe, foot or leg amputation.
- Hearing impairment – Hearing problems are more common in people with diabetes.
- Skin conditions – Diabetes may leave you more susceptible to skin problems, including bacterial and fungal infections.
- Sleep apnea – Obstructive sleep apnea is common in people with type 2 diabetes. Obesity may be the main contributing factor to both conditions. Treating sleep apnea may lower your blood pressure and make you feel more rested, but it’s not clear whether it helps improve blood sugar control.
- Alzheimer’s disease – Type 2 diabetes seems to increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, though it’s not clear why. The worse your blood sugar control, the greater the risk appears to be.
Healthy lifestyle choices can help prevent type 2 diabetes, and that’s true even if you have diabetes in your family. If you’ve already received a diagnosis of diabetes, you can use healthy lifestyle choices to help prevent complications. If you have prediabetes, lifestyle changes can slow or stop the progression to diabetes.
A healthy lifestyle includes:
Eating healthy foods. Choose foods lower in fat and calories and higher in fiber. Focus on fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
Getting active. Aim for a minimum of 30 to 60 minutes of moderate physical activity — or 15 to 30 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity — on most days. Take a brisk daily walk. Ride a bike. Swim laps. If you can’t fit in a long workout, spread your activity throughout the day.
Losing weight. If you’re overweight, losing 5 to 10 percent of your body weight can reduce the risk of diabetes. To keep your weight in a healthy range, focus on permanent changes to your eating and exercise habits. Motivate yourself by remembering the benefits of losing weight, such as a healthier heart, more energy and improved self-esteem.
Avoiding being sedentary for long periods. Sitting still for long periods can increase your risk of type 2 diabetes. Try to get up every 30 minutes and move around for at least a few minutes.
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