Do I Have Diabetes

Diabetes is a condition that affects the body’s ability to break down carbohydrates. People who suffer from diabetes either don’t produce insulin (type I), or their bodies have become resistant to their own insulin (type II). If not treated, both types may result in severe complications. The sedentary lifestyle and an increasing number of overweight individuals are the reason behind more and more diabetes patients.

Diabetes affects the body’s ability to break down carbohydrates. Diabetes shouldn’t be neglected under any circumstances, as it may cause quite severe health issues and complications – kidney failure, blindness, even death. Statistics show that approximately 8% of the US population suffers from this condition (and this is only according to the national statistics). The estimates provided from the American Diabetes Association show that diabetes is the reason for 178 000 deaths, 12 to 24 thousand cases of blindness and around 54 000 amputations each year. The risk of blindness is 25% higher in people who suffer from diabetes as oppose to those who don’t. Soon diabetes may be responsible for more deaths in America than heart disease and cancer.

Diabetics suffer from high blood glucose. The hormone responsible for blood sugar regulation is called Insulin. Insulin is synthesized in the pancreas; it’s released after consuming food, especially carbohydrates, and it helps the body cells absorb glucose from the blood. Glucose is important for all the functions of human cells – it’s basically their fuel. If there is no glucose present, the cells won’t be able to function properly.

The traditional standards for diagnosing diabetes were set on 140 mg/dL for fasting plasma glucose levels (measured on two occasions) and 200+ mg/dL after having a glucose load of 75g. These standards have been recently slightly adjusted by the American Diabetes Association: they lowered the fasting plasma glucose levels – the new levels are set to equal or higher than 126 mg/dL. If the fasting plasma levels are over the limit, further testing is required – the check will be repeated and an oral glucose tolerance test will be initiated as well.

Symptoms of diabetes include sudden weight loss, excessive hunger and thirst, blurred vision, excessive urination, headaches, repeated infections, fatigue, itchy and dry skin, and it takes much longer for the wounds to heal. Of course, these symptoms may also have other causes, but if you are experiencing two or more symptoms, you should arrange a check-up.

There are two types of diabetes.

Type I diabetes is also known as juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes. Type I diabetes is caused when the pancreas can’t produce insulin anymore. The type I diabetes makes for approximately 5 to 10% of all the cases. The immune system treats the cells that produce insulin as a threat and they end up being destroyed by it, as they are mistaken for a virus. It is also believed that viral infections are in fact a trigger for this type of diabetes. Type I diabetes is hereditary and is most common among the Caucasian population. If it is left untreated, it might result in death within only two to three months, as the body will starve because it’s not able to absorb glucose. The name Juvenile diabetes comes from the fact that the vast majority of type I diabetics are young, but the condition may develop at any stage of life. It’s usually diagnosed by proving the existence of anti-insulin antibodies.

Type II diabetes, also known as adult onset diabetes or non-insulin dependent diabetes is somewhat different. The body of a person that suffers from type II diabetes has become resistant to insulin. People suffering from type II diabetes have enough insulin, but the insulin has become ineffective because its levels were too high for too long. Approximately 90 to 95% of all diabetes cases are type II. After the pancreas becomes exhausted due to overproducing insulin, the levels will drop below normal.

Even though there is also a hereditary component to type II diabetes, the chances of it developing in individuals who have normal weight and are eating low to moderate carb diet are low. Individuals who live a sedentary life, are overweight and eat high-carbohydrate food are at high risk of developing type II diabetes, as carbohydrate rich diets activate insulin overproduction. For instance, the rates of diabetes among natives are quite high. The North American Aboriginals have high rates, as their traditional diet barely included carbohydrates; refined sugar and starch were introduced by Europeans. The rate is up to five times higher than in Caucasian population. People of African American and Hispanic origin are also at higher risk of type II diabetes. Type II diabetes doesn’t progress as quickly as type I, but after having the condition for years it may result in quite severe complications and it might also shorten the lifespan.

The most common age group affected by type II diabetes are people who are over 40 (this is why it’s also called adult onset diabetes). There have been changes in the affected age groups, however – as childhood obesity is spreading, there are more and more cases of type II diabetes in younger patients. Both types, if left untreated, may result in life threatening conditions and complications. Some of them include nephropathy (kidney damage), neuropathy (nerve damage), heart disease, retinopathy (retinal damage), blindness and hypoglycemia. Diabetes also leads to atherosclerosis, as it damages blood vessels; smaller arteries are usually the most affected ones. Individuals suffering from diabetes may also lose sensation in their feet because of neuropathy – this may lead to unnoticed injuries. These injuries can’t heal because the end arteries are damaged and such injuries may lead to gangrene and amputation – toes, feet, even entire legs are amputated. This is very common in elderly patients who poorly control their diabetes.

Type I diabetes is more severe because type I diabetes patients have no insulin of their own, whereas type II diabetes patients still have some of their own insulin production. There is no known cure for type I diabetes yet, but it can be held under control with strict diets and insulin injections/insulin pumps. The pumps are still fairly new, but they make the lives of people who need regular insulin shots much easier, as they pump insulin into the bloodstream as a direct reaction to change in blood glucose levels. Type II diabetes is often manageable with changes in diet alone, but many people who suffer from type II diabetes find it hard to have starch and sugar free diets or lose weight, so they take medication even though, in theory, they don’t need it.

Even though this article provides a fair amount of information about diabetes, it shouldn’t be taken as medical advice. If you suspect you might have diabetes, you should set up a doctor’s appointment immediately.


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