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Home >> Medicial Conditions >> Diabetes

Types of Diabetes & Treatments

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What is diabetes? It's 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.

What are the symptoms of diabetes? People who think they might have diabetes should visit a physician for diagnosis as soon as possible. They might have some 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

What are the types of diabetes? There is Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes, previously known as insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM) or juvenile-onset diabetes, may account for 5% to 10% of all diagnosed cases of diabetes. Type 2 diabetes, previously known as non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) or adult-onset diabetes, may account for about 90% to 95% of all diagnosed cases of diabetes. There is also gestational diabetes, which 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.

What puts you at risk for diabetes? Risk factors for type 2 diabetes include older age, obesity, family history of diabetes, prior history of gestational diabetes, impaired glucose tolerance, physical inactivity, and race/ethnicity. African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians, and some Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are at particularly high risk for type 2 diabetes. Risk factors are less defined for type 1 diabetes, but autoimmune, genetic, and environmental factors are involved in developing this type of diabetes. Gestational diabetes occurs more commonly in African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians, and people with a family history of diabetes than in other groups. Obesity is also associated with higher risk. Women who have had gestational diabetes are at increased risk for later developing type 2 diabetes. Other types of diabetes result from specific genetic syndromes, surgery, drugs, malnutrition, infections, and other illnesses.

Is there treatment for diabetes? Healthy eating, physical activity, and insulin injections are the basic therapies for type 1. The amount of insulin taken must be balanced with food intake and daily activities. Blood glucose levels must be monitored through frequent blood glucose testing. Healthy eating, physical activity, and blood glucose testing are the basic therapies for type 2. In addition, many people with type 2 require oral medication, insulin, or both to control their blood glucose levels. Diabetic people must take responsibility for their day-to-day care, and keep blood glucose levels from going too low or too high. They should see a health care provider who can help them in the monitoring and controling of the condition. Several approaches to "cure" diabetes are being pursued, including; pancreas transplantation, islet cell transplantation (islet cells produce insulin), artificial pancreas development, and genetic manipulation (fat or muscle cells that don't normally make insulin have a human insulin gene inserted, then these "pseudo" islet cells are transplanted into people with type 1 diabetes). Each of these approaches still has a lot of challenges, such as preventing immune rejection, finding an adequate number of insulin cells, keeping cells alive, and others. But progress is being made in all areas.


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