Diabetes is a serious disease, which, if not controlled, can be life threatening. It is often associated with long-term complications that can affect every system and part of the body. Diabetes can contribute to the following conditions:
It can affect pregnancy and cause birth defects, as well.
Although diabetes is a chronic and incurable disease (with the exception of gestational diabetes), with proper medical care, clinical therapies, diet, hygiene, and exercise, symptoms and complications can be successfully treated and managed.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a group of diseases characterized by a lack of the hormone insulin, which results in abnormally high levels of glucose in the blood. They may be the result of conditions such as genetic syndromes, chemicals, drugs, malnutrition, infections, viruses, or other illnesses.
The three main types of diabetes -- type 1, type 2, and gestational -- are all defined as metabolic disorders that affect the way the body metabolizes, or uses, digested food to make glucose, the main source of fuel for the body.
How does Diabetes affect Blood Glucose?
For glucose to be able to move into the cells of the body, the hormone insulin must be present. Insulin is produced in the pancreas, and normally, is readily available to move glucose into the cells.
In people who have diabetes, either the pancreas produces too little or no insulin, or the cells do not respond to the insulin that is produced. This causes a build-up of glucose in the blood, which passes into the urine where it is eventually eliminated, leaving the body without its main source of fuel.
How do the Three Main Types of Diabetes Differ?
Although the three main types of diabetes are similar in the build-up of blood glucose due to problems with insulin, there are differences in cause and treatment:
- Type 1 Diabetes - An autoimmune disease in which the body's immune system attacks the cells that produce insulin, resulting in no or a low amount of insulin. People with type 1 diabetes must take insulin daily in order to live.
- Type 2 Diabetes - A result of the body's inability to make enough or to properly use insulin. Type 2 diabetes may be controlled with diet, exercise, and weight loss, or may require oral medication and/or insulin injections.
- Gestational Diabetes occurs in pregnant women who have not had diagnosed diabetes in the past. It results in the inability to use the insulin that is present and usually disappears after the pregnancy is over. Gestational diabetes may be controlled with diet, exercise, and attention to weight gain. Women with gestational diabetes may be at higher risk for type 2 diabetes later in life.
Complications of Diabetes:
Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death among Americans, and the sixth leading cause of death from disease. Although it is believed that diabetes is under-reported as a condition leading to or causing death, each year, 180,000 deaths are reported as being caused by diabetes or its complications. Complications of diabetes include eye problems and blindness, heart disease, stroke, neurological problems, amputation, and impotence.
Because diabetes (with the exception of gestational diabetes) is a chronic, incurable disease that affects nearly every part of the body, contributes to other serious diseases, and can be life threatening, it must be managed under the care of a physician throughout a patient's life.
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This page was last updated: April 26, 2013