education-diabetesDiabetes is the inability of the body to create or use insulin, a hormone secreted by the pancreas that enables sugar or glucose, to enter the cells. Diabetes is a serious, chronic metabolic disorder in which the body either does not produce enough insulin or does not respond to the insulin being produced.

The body normally breaks down most of our food into glucose, a sugar that serves as the body’s main source of energy. In order for glucose to move into the cells of the body, it requires the help of insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas. In healthy individuals, the body usually produces enough insulin to do this, but for people with diabetes, this does not occur. This causes glucose to build up in the blood instead of moving into the cells. Too much glucose in the blood can lead to serious health problems that may damage the blood vessels, nerves, heart, eyes and kidneys. While diabetes can lead to serious complications, it can often be successfully managed through diet, lifestyle modifications or medication.

Types of Diabetes

There are several different forms of diabetes.

Most forms of diabetes can be managed, and with medical treatment or lifestyle modifications, people can live relatively healthy lives.

Symptoms of Diabetes

While type 1 diabetes usually develops during childhood or adolescence, it can also manifest during adulthood. Symptoms of type 1 diabetes may include:

Symptoms of type 2 diabetes commonly develop in adulthood and may include the same symptoms as type 1 diabetes as well as:

Some people with type 2 diabetes may not notice any symptoms at all.

Risk Factors of Diabetes

The exact cause of diabetes is not clear, however, there are risk factors for developing diabetes. Risks of developing type 1 diabetes include: the presence of autoantibodies (damaging immune system cells), a family history of diabetes and environmental factors. Risks for developing type 2 diabetes and prediabetes increase as people age and also may include:

The risks of gestational diabetes include:

The risk of gestational diabetes increases if a woman is diagnosed with prediabetes prior to pregnancy.

Diagnosis of Diabetes

If symptoms occur and diabetes is suspected, tests may include urine tests and blood tests to measure glucose and blood sugar levels. Tests may include:

Risks for gestational diabetes are usually evaluated early in pregnancy and blood sugar levels are checked through an initial glucose challenge test.

Treatment of Diabetes

Treatment of diabetes varies depending on the type. Individuals with any type of diabetes benefit from eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight and participating in regular physical activity. Prediabetes may be controlled with healthy lifestyle modifications that can bring blood sugar levels back to normal, therefore lowering the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Gestational diabetes can often be addressed with maintaining a healthy diet and exercising. The treatment plan may also include monitoring blood sugar levels and in extreme cases, using insulin or oral medications.

Complications of Diabetes

Left untreated, uncontrolled blood sugar levels caused by diabetes may result in serious complications. If not treated properly, diabetes can lead to nerve damage, heart disease, stroke and kidney failure. It can also cause permanent eye, foot, skin and bone damage. A lifelong commitment is necessary to prevent these complications from occurring. It is important for people with diabetes to take an active role in the management of their condition. Adhering to a healthy lifestyle and monitoring blood glucose levels are essential in preventing complications.