What exactly is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a disease in which the body is not able to adequately control the amount of glucose (a form of sugar) in the bloodstream causing it to rise too high. This happens because the body doesn't produce enough insulin, or uses it improperly. The cells use insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, to help convert glucose into energy. Normally, starches, sugars and other nutrients are broken down into glucose, which is taken by the blood to cells where it is used as energy. Without enough insulin, or when it is not properly used, glucose builds up in the blood and urine, which can cause numerous problems.
Type 1 Diabetes:
People with type 1 diabetes have insulin deficiency, which means that the body does not produce enough insulin. This prevents nutrients from being converted to energy. Typically less than 10% of people with diabetes have type 1, and most cases are diagnosed in children and young adults. People with type 1 diabetes must receive insulin either through injections or a pump.
Type 2 Diabetes:
People with type 2 diabetes have insulin resistance. The body may produce some insulin but it is not used properly. About 85% to 95% of people with diabetes worldwide have type 2. Although type 2 diabetes used to occur most frequently in older people, in recent years it is becoming more frequent in younger people and children.
Diabetes during pregnancy, or gestational diabetes, is one example of "conditional" diabetes. "Conditional" diabetes occurs in relation to certain medical conditions, such as pancreatic disease, certain genetic disorders, and pregnancy. It may be short-term, however, women with diabetes during their pregnancy have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Pre-diabetes means that the body's ability to control glucose levels is not normal, but not impaired enough to be called diabetes. People with Pre-diabetes are at increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes.*
Diabetes Risk Factors
- Being overweight or obese
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Physical inactivity
- Family background
- Parent or sibling with diabetes
The risk of developing diabetes can also increase as people grow older. People who are over 40 and over weight are more likely to develop diabetes. There are some risk factors you can’t change, such as your genetics, race, or age. Others you can change, like excess weight and low physical activity.
Even though the diagnosis of diabetes has increased dramatically over the past several years, many people are still unaware that they have diabetes. These are some of the most common symptoms of diabetes:
- Increased thirst
- Increased frequency of urination
- Weight loss even when appetite is good
- Extreme fatigue
- Genital irritation, infection, or itching
- Blurred vision
- Tingling or numbness in hands or feet
- Sores that are slow to heal
- Very dry skin
Blood tests and symptoms are used to diagnose diabetes. FPG (fasting plasma glucose) is a test that is conducted after a patient has fasted (not had anything to eat or drink) for 8 hours. OGTT (oral glucose tolerance test) requires a patient to fast and then consume a glucose drink. Blood is tested 2 hours later. An additional test that your health care provider may perform is an HbA1C or A1C test. This test measures your blood sugar levels for the past 2-3 months so fasting is not required. In people with classic symptoms of
hyperglycemia a random plasma glucose can diagnose diabetes.
FPG: ≥126 mg/dL (7 mmol/L) or more
OGTT: ≥ 200 mg/dL (11.1 mmol/L) or more
A random plasma glucose greater than or equal to 200 mg/dL
A1C: ≥ 6.5%
If your levels are high, your health care professional will usually require a retest on a different day to confirm a diagnosis of diabetes.
People with diabetes are at increased risk for heart disease and stroke, nerve damage that can lead to pain and numbness in the hands and feet, kidney dysfunction, and eye disease and other conditions. People with diabetes also need to regularly check their feet because nerve damage may prevent a person with diabetes from noticing a foot wound until it has become infected. Properly managing diabetes can help delay or prevent these complications.
The incidence of diabetes worldwide is growing rapidly. In 1995, it was estimated that globally about 135 million were living with diabetes. This number rose to approximately151 million cases in 2000**, 366 million cases in 2011 and is projected to increase to almost 552 million cases by 2030***. Proper diabetes management can help individuals living with diabetes feel in control of their lives.
* 2011 National Diabetes Fact Sheet. CDC. http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/pubs/general11.htm#what. Assessed July 2013.
** IDF Atlas 1st edition (pg. 25 and 28) ***IDF Atlas 5th edition (pg. 13)