During the process of digestion, sugars and starches you eat are changed into glucose, a sugar that your body uses for energy. Insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, helps to control the glucose in blood. Without insulin, your body is unable to either store or use glucose, so there is an overabundance of sugar that remains in the blood. Over a period of time, elevated blood sugar levels can damage nerves and blood vessels, causing an increased risk for developing problems with the kidneys, heart, eyes, legs and feet.
Type 1 diabetes occurs because the pancreas is making little or no insulin. Type 1 diabetes typically develops during childhood or adolescence, but it is possible for it to develop at any age. People with type 1 diabetes have to give themselves insulin injections every day, and usually multiple times per day.
Type 2 diabetes develops when the pancreas is unable to make enough insulin to meet the requirements of the body, or the body does not use the insulin appropriately. Type 2 diabetes usually begins in adults, particularly in persons over 40 years of age who are overweight. It is possible for many people with type 2 diabetes to control their blood sugar exclusively through diet, regular exercise, and careful weight control. However, there are other individuals who require insulin injections or oral medication to regulate their blood sugar.
Risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes include the following:
- Having a family history of type 2 diabetes
- Having a sedentary lifestyle
- Having a history of diabetes during pregnancy (gestational diabetes)
- Being overweight (20 percent or more beyond ideal body weight)
- Being 40 years of age or older
- Being of African-American, Hispanic, Native American, or Pacific Island descent
The symptoms of diabetes are typically somewhat vague in nature. Most people believe that they are experiencing symptoms due to illness or aging, not because of diabetes. Symptoms of diabetes include the following:
- Increased appetite (this occurs in type 1 diabetes only)
- Unexplained weight loss (this occurs in type 1 diabetes only)
- Dry mouth and increased thirst
- Frequent urination (particularly at night)
- Frequent infections of the skin and wounds that are slow to heal
- Feeling of fatigue, weakness, and dizziness
- Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
- Recurrent vaginal infections
- Blurry vision
Your physician will need to perform a blood test to accurately diagnose diabetes.
Currently, there is known way of preventing type 1 diabetes.
The risk of developing type 2 diabetes runs in families. However, even with a family history of type 2 diabetes, it may be possible for you to delay or prevent its onset by getting aerobic exercise regularly and maintaining a healthy body weight.
If you are experiencing any of the diabetic symptoms, schedule to see your doctor for a blood test and clearly identify the symptoms that you have been experiencing. Make sure to follow any instructions provided by your doctor for managing your symptoms and/or your condition. Management of blood sugar is extremely important to keeping your body in the best possible condition. If you fail to manage your blood sugar appropriately, there can be very serious consequence in the function of your kidneys, heart, circulatory system, and the health of your eyes.