What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a disease that is defined by your body’s inability to process sugar, or glucose, properly. Most commonly, diabetes presents as either type 1 or type 2. However, there are other classifications of diabetes, such as gestational diabetes, as well. Your doctor may recommend diabetes testing if you have certain risk factors or if your routine blood work shows a blood glucose that is higher than 100 mg/dL after not eating anything for 8-10 hours. Diabetes may also be detected using what is known as hemoglobin A1C, a measure that assesses your average blood glucose over a period of several months. Patients with an A1C greater than 5.7% are considered “pre-diabetic”, and those over 6.5% may be formally diagnosed with diabetes.
Types of Diabetes
The two most common types of diabetes are known as Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks the body's own parts, in this case the cells that normally produce insulin. Patients with type 1 diabetes are usually children, and as a result of this immune response, they lack insulin, which is a natural agent that removes glucose from the blood so that it can help provide power to your body’s cells. People with type 1 diabetes make up 5% of all patients with diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes is a disease that develops over time, as your body develops insulin resistance, which is when the glucose in your blood does not respond to insulin’s attempts to move the glucose into the cells. At first, your pancreas, an organ located behind the stomach, will try to produce more insulin to combat this, but eventually the pancreas cannot keep up with the amount of glucose in the blood.
The third most common type of diabetes is gestational diabetes, which can occur in pregnant women who have never been diagnosed with diabetes before. Although this diagnosis may not be permanent, it should be handled with extreme care in order to protect both mother and child.
Treatments for Diabetes
Patients with type 1 diabetes will most likely receive treatment by self-administering injectable insulin, in order to make up for what they do not have. Patients with type 2 diabetes have a variety of options, both oral and injectable, which will help their bodies to better respond to the insulin that they have. Some patients with type 2 diabetes will also receive therapy with injectable insulin, in order to supplement their natural supply.
Risk factors for Type 2 Diabetes
Because type 2 diabetes often develops later in life, it’s important to know if you are at risk. The following factors typically mean a person is at higher risk for developing diabetes:
- Being a senior
- Poor diet
- Family history of diabetes
- High blood pressure
- Low physical activity
Diabetes in America
- Approximately 30.3 million people in the United States have diabetes
- About 25% of people with diabetes do not know they have the disease
- An estimated 84 million Americans have “prediabetes”
- Cases of diagnosed diabetes in the U.S. cost an estimated $245 billion in 2012, the cost is rising as more cases are being diagnosed
For more information visit the American Diabetes Association’s website at: www.diabetes.org or learn more about National Diabetes Month at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/communication-programs/ndep/partner-community-organization-information/national-diabetes-month