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What Is Diabetes?

Universal blue circle symbol for diabetes.

Insulin is a hormone the body needs to enable it to convert sugar of glucose into the energy required for daily life. Diabetes develops when the pancreas stops producing insulin or the body cannot utilize insulin correctly. The result is poor energy production from the food ingested.

There are three types of diabetes, type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes

This is a chronic (lifelong) disease that begins early in life, usually being diagnosed in children and young adults. The body stops manufacturing insulin because the beta cells in the pancreas responsible for producing insulin are destroyed. This process has been linked to an auto-immune response triggered by a virus or toxin. The immune systemís attack on the virus-infected cells is also directed at the beta cells, which are damaged sufficiently to stop them from reproducing.

Early signs of this type of diabetes include excessive thirst, hunger, weight loss, frequent urination, blurred vision, fatigue and chronic infection. According to conventional medicine it is incurable, but can be managed with insulin injections and lifestyle modifications.

Type 2 diabetes

Unlike type 1 diabetes, people with type 2 do produce insulin. However, either not enough insulin is produced, or the body ignores the insulin. Because blood sugar is unable to enter the cells, the body is starved of energy.

This form of diabetes is more often seen in overweight men and women. However, the alarming rise in childhood obesity has meant that patients are increasingly been seen at a much younger age. There used to be no such thing as type 2 diabetes in children, but with the fast-food revolution and the use of refined sugar in processed foods it is becoming an epidemic.

Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes increase the risk of serious conditions such as heart disease, hyperglycemia that cause blindness, nerve damage that can lead to foot and leg amputation, and renal failure.

Gestational diabetes

Gestational diabetes is a condition in which women without previously diagnosed diabetes exhibit high blood glucose levels during pregnancy.

Gestational diabetes generally has few symptoms and it is most commonly diagnosed by screening during pregnancy. Diagnostic tests detect inappropriately high levels of glucose in blood samples. Gestational diabetes affects 3-10 percent of pregnancies, depending on the population studied. No specific cause has been identified, but it is believed that the hormones produced during pregnancy increase a woman's resistance to insulin, resulting in impaired glucose tolerance.

Babies born to mothers with gestational diabetes are typically at increased risk of problems such as being large for gestational age (which may lead to delivery complications), low blood sugar, and jaundice. Gestational diabetes is a treatable condition and women who have adequate control of glucose levels can effectively decrease these risks.

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