Diabetes or Diabetes Mellitus (m?li't?s), is a chronic disorder of glucose (sugar) metabolism caused by inadequate production or use of insulin, a hormone produced in specialized cells (beta cells in the islets of Langerhans) in the pancreas that allows the body to use and store glucose.
- Dry mouth.
- Increased thirst
- Frequent urination
- Increased appetite (Type 1 only)
- Unexplained weight loss (Type 1 only)
- Feeling week, tired and dizzy
- Frequent skin infections
- Slow healing wounds
- Recurrent vaginal infections
- Blurry vision
- Tingling or numbness in the hands or feet
- Fast, shallow breathing
Insulin-dependent diabetes, also called juvenile-onset diabetes, is the more serious form of the disease; about 10% of diabetics have this form. It is caused by destruction of pancreatic cells that make insulin and usually develops before age 30. Type I diabetics have a genetic predisposition to the disease. There is some evidence that it is triggered by a virus that changes the pancreatic cells in a way that prompts the immune system to attack them. The symptoms are the same as in the non-insulin-dependent variant, but they develop more rapidly and with more severity. Treatment includes a diet limited in carbohydrates and saturated fat, exercise to burn glucose, and regular insulin injections, sometimes administered via a portable insulin pump. Transplantation of islet cells has also proved successful since 1999, after new transplant procedures were developed, but the number of pancreases available for extraction of the islet cells is far smaller than the number of Type I diabetics. Patients receiving a transplant must take immunosuppressive drugs to prevent rejection of the cells.
Noninsulin-dependent diabetes also called adult-onset diabetes, results from the inability of the cells in the body to respond to insulin. About 90% of diabetics have this form, which is more prevalent in minorities and usually occurs after age 40. Although the cause is not completely understood, there is a genetic factor and 90% of those affected are obese. As in Type I diabetes, treatment includes exercise and weight loss and a diet low in total carbohydrates and saturated fat. Some individuals require insulin injections; many rely on oral drugs, such as sulphonylureas, metformin, or acarbose.
How to Prevent Diabetes
Pre-diabetes is a serious medical condition that can be treated. Diabetes Prevention studies conclusively showed that people with pre-diabetes can prevent the development of type 2 diabetes by making changes in their diet and increasing their level of physical activity. They may even be able to return their blood glucose levels to the normal range.
While studies also showed that some medications may delay the development of diabetes, diet and exercise worked better. Just 30 minutes a day of moderate physical activity, coupled with a 5-10% reduction in body weight, produced a 58% reduction in diabetes.
- Take insulin or medications as prescribed
- Eat a healthy diet to keep your blood sugar in control and pay special attention to eating low-fat foods
- Exercise regularly to help regulate your blood sugar level, reduce your risk for heart disease and control weight
- Track the food you eat and the kind and amount of exercise you get
- Take good care of your feet as diabetes may damage nerves and reduce the blood flow to your feet
- Get regular eye exams. Diabetic retinopathy can cause blindness. Early detection and treatment can slow the process and save your sight
- Have regular medical checkups. If you are diabetic or know someone who is, call a health professional if signs of low blood sugar last more than 15 minutes