What is Diabetes?

Diabetes mellitus is a condition in which the body does not produce or cannot use the hormone insulin.  Insulin is necessary to convert food into energy that can be used by the cells.  Every cell needs sugar, particularly the sugar glucose, as a source of energy.  Insulin acts on cells to help them extract glucose from the blood.  In people with diabetes, there is not enough insulin to extract the glucose, and it gets into the cells, or the body cannot use the insulin that is there properly, and blood sugar levels rise.  Diabetes is a chronic condition that has no cure.

 

There are two types of diabetes.  Type one diabetes is the result of the body attacking its own pancreas and halting the production of insulin.  This type is considered an autoimmune disease.  It usually occurs in childhood or teenage years and is often diagnosed during puberty.  It is rarely diagnosed after the age of 35.

 

Type two diabetes is the most common form of diabetes.  It is more likely to develop in people who are older than 40, obese, sedentary or who have a family history of diabetes.  In this form, the body’s cells gradually become less responsive to insulin, a condition called insulin resistance.

 

Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy.  It causes blood sugar levels to rise during pregnancy, but levels usually return to normal after delivery.

 

Diabetes can develop slowly or quickly.  In type one diabetes, the body is triggered to attack its own cells.  As the body destroys the insulin producing cells, the body makes less and less insulin.  The attack can go on for months or years, until finally symptoms result.  Some researchers believe type one diabetes is triggered by a combination of genetics and viruses, because many cases of diabetes are diagnosed after a person recovers from a virus.

 

In Type two diabetes, the body’s cells gradually become less sensitive to insulin, leading the pancreas to produce more and more insulin to counteract rising blood glucose levels.  The pancreas can produce this extra insulin for months or years, but insulin resistance can continue to grow stronger and ultimately, the pancreas no longer can keep up with the increased demand and keep blood glucose levels in the normal range.

 

To learn more about Diabetes, please contact the American Diabetes Association at 800-342-2383.  You can also visit them online at www.diabetes.org.

 

Phone code: 1747

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