What is Diabetes?

Perhaps you or a loved one has diabetes.  Or maybe you’re teetering on the edge, a borderline diabetic.  What exactly is diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs when the body either does not produce enough insulin or cannot effectively use the insulin it produces. And what is insulin? Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar. You’ve probably heard people with diabetes talk about their sugar level, and the need to test it regularly.

Hyperglycemia, or raised blood sugar, is a common effect of uncontrolled diabetes and over time leads to serious damage to many of the body’s systems, especially the nerves and blood vessels.  There are three types of Diabetes, Type 1 and Type 2 and Gestational Diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes (previously known as insulin-dependent, juvenile or childhood-onset) occurs when the body doesn’t produce enough insulin.  So, this type requires daily administration of insulin. The cause of Type 1 diabetes is not known and there is no information on how to prevent it. What are some of the signs that you may have Type 1 diabetes? Symptoms include excessive urination, thirst, constant hunger, weight loss, vision changes and fatigue. These symptoms may occur suddenly.

Type 2 diabetes results from the body’s ineffective use of insulin. This condition is most common, and accounts for roughly 90% of all diabetics. This condition is often the result of excess body weight and physical inactivity. Symptoms may be similar to those of Type 1 diabetes, but are often less marked. As a result, the disease may be diagnosed several years after onset, once complications have already arisen. Until recently, this type of diabetes was seen only in adults but it is now also occurring in children.

Gestational diabetes is hyperglycemia with the onset or first recognition during pregnancy. Symptoms of gestational diabetes are similar to Type 2 diabetes. Gestational diabetes is most often diagnosed through prenatal screening, rather than reported symptoms.

If you’d like to learn more about diabetes, here are some additional sources:

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms or are concerned about diabetes, be sure to contact your physician.  With a simple blood test, your doctor can both determine whether you are at risk, and provide recommended treatment.