Diabetes: Understanding the Basics

diabetesDiabetes is the seventh leading cause of death among people in the United States. It is a disease that causes blood glucose levels to be higher than normal, which is called hyperglycemia. Once someone has been diagnosed with diabetes, understanding the basics of the disease should be their top priority, which will help them know how to take care of themselves on a day-to-day basis.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of 2010, 25.8 million people were diagnosed with diabetes, which is equal to 8.3 percent of the entire U.S. population. Of those people, 1.9 million were people age 20 and older.

Most of the food a person consumes is turned into glucose or sugar, which will be used by the body for energy. The pancreas is responsible for making a hormone called insulin that helps glucose get into cells within the body. However, when someone has diabetes, his or her body either cannot make enough insulin or is unable to use its own insulin, as it should. As a result, sugar builds up in the bloodstream.

Diabetes is a serious health condition, and as such, it is important to understand the basics in order to better take care of oneself. Diabetes can contribute to other medical complications including kidney failure, heart disease, blindness, and amputation of the lower extremities. There are many different symptoms of diabetes. Some of the symptoms include excess thirst, unexplained weight loss, frequent urination, fatigue, dry skin, sudden vision changes, sores that are difficult to heal, and increased susceptibility to infections, and tingling or numbness in the hands or feet.

There are two main types of diabetes, Type 1 (also known as juvenile-onset diabetes) and Type 2 (also known as adult-onset diabetes). Type I diabetes typically develops over a short period of time, and when someone suffers from this type of diabetes, they are called insulin-dependent, meaning they must take daily shots of insulin and oftentimes more than once a day to treat the condition. If insulin is not taken as prescribed, the patient may become very ill and lapse into ketoacidosis, which is a life-threatening diabetic coma. Approximately five percent of all people who have diabetes are Type I.

Type II diabetes develops gradually and these individuals are considered non-insulin-dependent. Instead, they are insulin resistant. Type II diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. Those who suffer from Type II generally take an oral medication in the form of a pill. In some cases, insulin is prescribed or a combination of insulin and oral medication is prescribed; treatment varies depending on each individual case. Of all people who have diabetes, 90 to 95 percent have Type II. Those who suffer from Type I and Type II diabetes must check their glucose levels on a regular basis to ensure they do not get too high or too low.

A third type of diabetes called gestational diabetes occurs only during pregnancy. However, if not treated, gestational diabetes can lead to problems for both mother and baby. According to the CDC, two to 10 percent of all pregnant mothers develop gestational diabetes, and women who do develop the disease are at an increased rate for developing Type II diabetes within five to 10 years.

It is important for people who suffer from diabetes to understand the basics and to take responsibility for their day-to-day care. Eating a healthy diet, getting plenty of physical activity, and taking medication as directed will go a long way toward helping someone live life to its fullest despite the fact that they are also living with diabetes.

Opinion By Donna W. Martin


American Diabetes Association

One Response to "Diabetes: Understanding the Basics"

  1. Kara Opdyke   May 1, 2014 at 10:39 am

    I’ve found that part of the basics of diabetes includes food too – there is some good information online here: http://www.extendbar.com/diabetic-food

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