Diabetes Center

What is diabetes?

An estimated 23.6 million Americans have diabetes, a serious, lifelong condition.  Diabetes is widely recognized as one of the leading causes of death and disability in the United States.  In fact, diabetes can damage your eyes, kidneys, and nerves; high blood sugar can also cause heart disease, stroke and even the need to surgically remove a limb.  But what is diabetes exactly?  And what types of diabetes are currently diagnosed?

What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a disease in which blood sugar levels are too high.  Over time, too much glucose in the blood can cause serious problems.  Diabetes is primarily a metabolism disorder.  Diabetic people experience trouble in the way the body processes food into energy.  Basically, if you are diabetic, sugar is not processed correctly in your system.  Because the cells cannot access this sugar (also called glucose) it remains in the blood and the body cells lose their main source of fuel.  One part of the excess blood sugar leaves the body in the form of urine sugar and the other excess part stays in the bloodstream, causing problems.

Most food gets broken down into glucose which is the main source of fuel for the body as it is a type of sugar (carbohydrate).  After digestion, glucose passes into the bloodstream, from where it is used by cells for growth and energy.  But for glucose to get into cells, insulin (a hormone from pancreas gland) must be present.  People with diabetes, however, either produce little or no insulin, or the cells do not respond appropriately to the insulin that is produced.

Types of diabetes -The two main types of diabetes are:

  1. Type 1 diabetes - Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing. During type 1 diabetes, the body does not make insulin at all. A person who has type 1 diabetes must take insulin daily to live.

  2. Type 2 diabetes - Type 2 diabetes is the more common type of diabetes diagnosed in the U.S.  During Type 2 diabetes, the body does not make or use insulin well. Without enough insulin, the glucose stays in your blood. 

Gestational diabetes - Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes that is triggered by pregnancy that usually goes away after a pregnancy.  Some women develop gestational diabetes late in pregnancy when the body is not able to make and use all the insulin it needs for pregnancy. Without enough insulin, glucose cannot leave the blood and be changed to energy in the cells.  Further problems include insulin resistance during which insulin receptors on the cell membranes are blocked by the hormones of the placenta so the fetus can have enough sugar in the blood to collect for him/her.  Women who are diagnosed with gestational diabetes have a future risk and chance to repeat the condition in other pregnancies or to develop type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes insipidus - Also known as "water diabetes", this rare form of diabetes is characterized by malfunction of the ADH-antidiuretic hormone from the pituitary gland and does not have any connection to diabetes mellitus or "sweet" diabetes.

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