What is Diabetes?
Its official name is Diabetes Mellitus (DM), but most people just call it Diabetes. It’s actually a collection of metabolic disorders known by the following names:
- Type 1 Diabetes
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Gestational Diabetes
Regardless of the type, the condition is characterized by high levels of glucose (blood sugar) that occur as a result of defects in insulin production or usage. Ever heard someone say that he or she has got “sugar?” They’re talking about the big D.
Almost everything we eat or drink is converted to glucose. We use glucose for energy in its various forms; it allows us to perform both physically as well as mentally. Without it, we die. However, too much glucose has the same unappealing results.
That’s where insulin comes in. Insulin is a hormone that regulates carbohydrate (glucose) metabolism. In healthy bodies, high glucose levels that occur naturally after eating are brought back down into normal range by insulin produced in the pancreas.
Type 1 Diabetes
This form of diabetes is considered an autoimmune disease, meaning the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas are no longer recognized as an accepted part of the body. In an attempt to save us from ourselves, our immune system wages war against these cells, effectively rendering them useless. As a result, our body stops producing insulin.
Type 1 Diabetes used to be called Juvenile Diabetes as it was most often diagnosed in children. Today, the term is not used as much because many adults are diagnosed as Type 1. You might also hear this form of the disease called Insulin-Dependent due to the inescapable fact that Type 1 diabetics must inject insulin.
Type 2 Diabetes
This form of diabetes is an insulin resistance condition, meaning the body is still producing insulin but is incapable of using it effectively. It is often referred to as a lifestyle disease, as it can often be controlled through a combination of diet and exercise.
Type 2 Diabetes is sometimes called Adult-Onset Diabetes since this condition generally affects adults. In recent years, however, an alarming number of obese children are being diagnosed as Type 2. Another term for this form of the disease is Non-Insulin-Dependent, meaning that insulin is usually not required to control the condition.
This form of diabetes is usually a temporary hormonal imbalance occurring during pregnancy that increases a mother’s resistance to insulin, similar to Type 2. This is sometimes referred to as Type 3 diabetes.
The symptoms of diabetes are easy to overlook. In and of themselves, they appear relatively harmless and are often attributed to any of the everyday stressors of life. But if you begin to notice a combination of these signs, be sure to schedule an appointment with your doctor. The following three symptoms are common to both Types 1 and 2:
- frequent urination (especially during the night)
- increased thirst
- increased appetite
In addition, undiagnosed Type 1 diabetics might also experience acute weight loss over a period of just a few months. This is because the bloodstream is awash in excess glucose that would normally be taken up by insulin and turned into muscle or fat. As a result, you are literally urinating out what would have been normal body weight.
It’s important to note that Diabetes Mellitus, regardless of which form it takes, is a treatable (though incurable) disease. A person who maintains tight control over their blood glucose through the use of oral medications or insulin, can expect to live a relatively normal and healthy life. Learn to recognize the symptoms and to stay vigilant against this disease that we diabetics call The Beast.