10 Things You Need to Know About Diabetes

November 14 is World Diabetes Day, and the theme this year is “Eye on Diabetes.” When my brother-in-law, who appeared to be extremely healthy, was diagnosed with a pre-diabetes condition recently, I realized that this disease can strike anyone. That’s why the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) is focusing its efforts this year on the importance of screening to ensure early diagnosis and treatment of type 2 diabetes.

Here are 10 things you need to know about diabetes.

1. How Do People Develop Diabetes?

It depends. There are several types, but the most common ones are type 1 and type 2. Type 1 diabetes is a condition present from birth or at least from a young age. Type 2 diabetes can develop at any age and is actually preventable, although some people may be more at risk of developing it than others. There are several risk factors for type 2 diabetes, including a family history of diabetes, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and high blood pressure. 

2. So What Exactly Is Diabetes?

People with diabetes do not have the ability to create the amount of insulin they need to stay healthy. The Diabetes Research Institute explains the role insulin plays in your body:

“When you eat, your body turns food into sugars, or glucose. At that point, your pancreas is supposed to release insulin. Insulin serves as a ‘key’ to open your cells, to allow the glucose to enter — and allow you to use the glucose for energy. But with diabetes, this system does not work. Several major things can go wrong – causing the onset of diabetes.”

3. What Is Type 1 Diabetes?

This is the more severe form of diabetes, sometimes called “juvenile” diabetes, because it is either present at birth or may develop in children and teenagers. 

Here’s what happens: the pancreas contains cells, called islets, that sense glucose in the blood and, in response, produce the necessary amount of insulin to normalize blood sugars. Insulin enables glucose to enter cells, so that they can create energy.

However, with type 1 diabetes, the body’s immune system mistakenly sees these insulin-producing cells in the pancreas as foreign, and destroys them. This attack is known as autoimmune disease, and researchers don’t fully understand why it happens.

With no insulin, the sugar stays in the blood and builds up there, and as a result, the body’s cells starve from the lack of glucose. To prevent this, people with type 1 diabetes must have insulin injections, to bring glucose to the body’s cells.

4. What Is Type 2 Diabetes?

This is the most common form of diabetes, also called “adult onset” diabetes, since it used to develop after age 35. That’s changing now, as a growing number of children and young adults are developing this disease. Unlike people with type 1 diabetes, those with type 2 can produce some of their own insulin, but it’s often not enough. In some cases, the insulin will try to open the body’s cells, to allow the glucose to enter, but for some reason it doesn’t work. In some cases, oral medications can help the body use its own insulin more efficiently, and in the most severe cases insulin injections are necessary.

5. What Are The Other Types of Diabetes?

Type 1 and type 2 diabetes are the most common forms of the disease, but there are also other kinds, including pre-diabetes and gestational diabetes, which occurs during pregnancy, usually around the 24th week. A diagnosis of gestational diabetes doesn’t mean that a woman had diabetes before she conceived, or that she will have it after giving birth, but she needs to manage her blood sugar levels while pregnant.

6. How Many People Suffer From Diabetes?

Diabetes is now a disease that affects 371 million people worldwide, and 187 million of them do not even know they have the disease, according to the IDF. The World Health Organization estimates that by 2030, the number of people living with diabetes will more than double. In the last decade, the cases of people in the U.S. living with diabetes jumped almost 50 percent, to more than 29 million Americans, or 9.3% of the population. Of these, approximately 1.25 million American children and adults have type 1 diabetes.  

7. How Serious Is Diabetes?

According to the Diabetes Research Institute, diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S. and takes more lives than AIDS and breast cancer combined. Annually, diabetes costs the American public more than $245 billion.

8. Why Is It Important To Diagnose Diabetes Early?

Screening for diabetes type 2 is really important, in order to ensure early diagnosis and treatment. If left untreated, the consequences can be serious, and even fatal. Some of these include heart disease and stroke, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure, non-traumatic lower limb amputations and new cases of blindness in the U.S. That’s why the IDF is focusing this year on screening for eye disease complications.

9. How Do I Know If I Have Diabetes?

According to the American Diabetes Association, the following are common symptoms of diabetes:

  • Urinating often
  • Feeling very thirsty
  • Feeling very hungry – even though you are eating
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Blurry vision
  • Cuts/bruises that are slow to heal
  • Weight loss – even though you are eating more (type 1)
  • Tingling, pain, or numbness in the hands/feet (type 2)

 10. How Do I Reduce The Risk Of Type 2 Diabetes?

Since type 2 diabetes is generally linked to being overweight and not moving enough, getting regular exercise is a good way to start. Other ways to reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes include eliminating or reducing all processed sugars (that’s a hard one, since they pop up everywhere), reducing alcohol consumption (alcohol is generally loaded with sugar), and increasing healthy fats like the monounsaturated fats found in avocados, olive oil and coconut milk. At the same time you want to reduce the amount of trans fats in your diet, usually from processed foods.

Related:
A Guide to Cutting Sugar Out of Your Diet
How Luke and His Dog Jedi Fight Against Type 1 Diabetes
What People With Type 1 Diabetes Want You to Know

Image credit: agecombahia via Flickr

165 comments

Alva W
Alva W.7 days ago

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Jeanne R
Jeanne R4 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Jeanne R
Jeanne R4 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Jeanne R
Jeanne R4 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Jeanne R
Jeanne R4 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Jeanne R
Jeanne R4 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Jeramie D
Jeramie Dabout a year ago

Thanks

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Jim V
Jim Venabout a year ago

thanks

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Jerome S
Jerome Sabout a year ago

thanks for sharing.

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Philippa P
Philippa Powers1 years ago

Thanks.

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