Diabetes 101

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease in which blood glucose levels are above normal. Most of the food we eat is turned into glucose, or sugar, for our bodies to use for energy. The pancreas, an organ that lies near the stomach, makes a hormone called insulin to help glucose get into the cells of our bodies.

When you have diabetes, your body either doesn't make enough insulin or can't use its own insulin as well as it should. This causes sugar to build up in your blood.

Diabetes can cause serious health complications including heart disease, blindness, kidney failure, and lower-extremity amputations. Diabetes is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.

What are the symptoms of diabetes?

People who think they might have diabetes must visit a physician for diagnosis. They might have SOME or NONE of the following symptoms:
  • Frequent urination
  • Excessive thirst
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Extreme hunger
  • Sudden vision changes
  • Tingling or numbness in hands or feet
  • Feeling very tired much of the time
  • Very dry skin
  • Sores that are slow to heal
  • More infections than usual.
Nausea, vomiting, or stomach pains may accompany some of these symptoms in the abrupt onset of insulin-dependent diabetes, now called type 1 diabetes.

What are the types of diabetes?

  • Type 1 diabetes, which was previously called insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM) or juvenile-onset diabetes, may account for 5% to 10% of all diagnosed cases of diabetes.
  • Type 2 diabetes, which was previously called non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) or adult-onset diabetes, may account for about 90% to 95% of all diagnosed cases of diabetes.
  • Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that only pregnant women get. If not treated, it can cause problems for mothers and babies. Gestational diabetes develops in 2% to 5% of all pregnancies but usually disappears when a pregnancy is over.
  • Other specific types of diabetes resulting from specific genetic syndromes, surgery, drugs, malnutrition, infections, and other illnesses may account for 1% to 2% of all diagnosed cases of diabetes.
This information found at www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/diabetes.html

Other Diabetes Links

NIDDK: Learn About Diabetes

ADA: Diabetes Basics

Mayo Clinic

Doctor… Why?

I was informed last week by my doctor that I have 'prediabetes'; I have a parent and 2 siblings who have diabetes, but I’ve not heard the term ‘prediabetes’ before. What does it mean?

It is now well recognized that persons don’t become diabetic without warning; instead they pass through a stage of disease called prediabetes, in which blood sugar levels are above normal, but not high enough to be considered diabetes. This stage may last for years.

Risk factors for prediabetes include:
  • being 45 years of age or older
  • being overweight or obese
  • having a family history of type 2 diabetes
  • having high blood pressure
  • being physically active fewer than 3 times a week
  • having had diabetes during pregnancy, that cleared after delivery
  • giving birth to a baby weighing 9 pounds or more,
  • being of any ethnic background except Caucasian
The CDC estimates that 1/3 of U.S. adults have prediabetes, which equates to over 220,000 people in Michigan, and that only about 1 in 10 actually know they have it. Almost 1/3 of people with prediabetes will become frankly diabetic within 5 years.

Detecting the disease process at this stage allows for interventions that have been shown to prevent progression to diabetes.

It has also been well demonstrated that this progression can be greatly slowed or even prevented by making 2 lifestyle changes – losing weight (as little as 7% of current body weight), and beginning increased physical activity (30 minutes of moderate activity 5 days a week, usually brisk walking).

To learn more about this topic, visit the American Diabetes Association.

by Paul M. Dake, M.D.