Diabetes mellitus (DM) is a set of related diseases in which the body cannot regulate the amount of sugar (specifically, glucose) in the blood. The blood delivers glucose to provide the body with energy to perform all of a person’s daily activities.
- The liver converts the food a person eats into glucose. The glucose is then released into the bloodstream.
- In a healthy person, the blood glucose level is regulated by several hormones, primarliy insulin. Insulin is produced by the pancreas, a small organ between the stomach and liver. The pancreas also makes other important enzymes released directly into the gut that helps digest food.
- Insulin allows glucose to move out of the blood into cells throughout the body where it is used for fuel.
- People with diabetes either do not produce enough insulin (type 1 diabetes) or cannot use insulin properly (type 2 diabetes), or both (which occurs with several forms of diabetes).
- In diabetes, glucose in the blood cannot move efficiently into cells, so blood glucose levels remain high. This not only starves all the cells that need the glucose for fuel, but also harms certain organs and tissues exposed to the high glucose levels.
Types of Diabetes
Prediabetes: A common condition related to diabetes where the blood sugar level is higher than normal but not yet high enough to be considered diagnostic of diabetes.
- Increases a person’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease or stroke.
- Can typically be reversed (without insulin or medication) with lifestyle changes such as losing a modest amount of weight and increasing physical activity levels. Weight loss can prevent, or at least delay, the onset of type 2 diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes: The body stops producing insulin or produces too little insulin to regulate blood glucose level.
- Typically diagnosed during childhood or adolescence. It used to be referred to as juvenile-onset diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus.
- Can occur in an older individual due to destruction of the pancreas by alcohol, disease, or removal by surgery. It also results from progressive failure of the pancreatic beta cells, the only cell type that produces significant amounts of insulin.
- Require insulin treatment daily to sustain life.
Type 2 diabetes: Although the pancreas still secretes insulin, the body of someone with type 2 diabetes is partially or completely unable to use this insulin. This is sometimes referred to as insulin resistance. The pancreas tries to overcome this resistance by secreting more and more insulin. People with insulin resistance develop type 2 diabetes when they fail to secrete enough insulin to cope with their higher demands.
- Typically diagnosed in adulthood. It used to be called adult-onset diabetes mellitus, or non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. These names are no longer used because type 2 diabetes does occur in younger people, and some people with type 2 diabetes require insulin therapy.
- Usually controlled with diet, weight loss, exercise and oral medications. However, more than half of all people with type 2 diabetes require insulin to control their blood sugar levels at some point in the course of their illness.
Gestational diabetes: A form of diabetes that occurs during the second half of pregnancy.
- Typically resolves after delivery of the baby. A woman who develops gestational diabetes is more likely than other women to develop type 2 diabetes later in life.
- More likely to have large babies.
Know the symptoms
Blood Sugar Levels: Hypoglycemia & Hyperglycemia
Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) happens when there is not enough glucose in your blood. A hypoglycemic reaction usually comes on very suddenly. It often happens at the time when insulin action is at its peak, during or after strenuous exercise or when a meal is delayed. The person may experience symptoms of hypoglycemia, such as nervousness, shakiness and hunger. He may sweat and feel dizzy, lightheaded and confused.
Hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) occurs when the body lacks insulin or cannot use insulin properly. This condition is found in individuals with diabetes, either insulin-dependent or non-insulin-dependent. The person may frequently feeling thirsty and having to urinate often.
Each condition can be diagnosed by measuring the level of blood glucose.
Video: How to check your blood sugar level using a blood glucose meter