LIVING WITH DIABETES
Diabetes: Usually refers to diabetes mellitus or, less often, to diabetes insipidus. Diabetes mellitus and diabetes insipidus share the name “diabetes” because they are both conditions characterized by excessive urination (polyuria).
The word “diabetes” is from the Greek word meaning “a siphon” because people with diabetes
“passed water like a siphon.”
When “diabetes” is used alone, it refers to diabetes mellitus. The two main types of diabetes mellitus – insulin requiring type 1 diabetes and adult-onset type 2 diabetes — are distinct and different diseases in themselves.
Types of Diabetes
The cause of diabetes is a mystery, although both genetics and environmental factors such as obesity and lack of exercise appear to play roles. There are three types of diabetes:
- Type 1
- Type 2
- Gestational Diabetes
Type 1 Diabetes
- Patients with type 1 diabetes do not secrete insulin, and therefore require self administered insulin to treat the disease
- Type 1 is an autoimmune disease, and is primarily diagnosed in children and teens
- There does not appear to be a genetic component
Type 2 Diabetes:
- Patients with type 2 diabetes secrete insulin, but are either resistant to it, or do not secrete enough
- There is some genetic predisposition
- Type 2 is historically more common in older adults, however, it is now beginning to appear in younger adults and children
- Type 2 diabetes is treated with lifestyle changes, oral medications and/or insulin
- Gestational diabetes is characterized by insulin resistance that occurs during pregnancy and resolves after delivery
- Goal of care is closely controlled blood sugars, achieved through lifestyle modification and insulin
- Women who develop gestational diabetes are at an increased risk for diabetes or pre-diabetes
Note that even if all the risk factors are present in the same person it doesn’t mean that they will certainly develop diabetes.
It is important to have a good understanding of the risk factors associated with diabetes, that is, the circumstances that make it more likely that diabetes will develop. Knowing these risk factors can help you make a diagnosis, especially of Type 2 diabetes, and introduce treatment at an early stage. The main risk factors for Type 2 diabetes are listed below:
- A family history of diabetes (genetic factors).
- Being overweight or obese; the distribution of body fat also appears to be important, with fat around the abdomen seen as more of a risk than fat hips.
- Lack of exercise.
There is some indication that a virus infection in early childhood might lead to Type 1 diabetes in some cases; the theory is that the virus in some way causes the person’s own immune system to destroy the insulin-producing cells in their pancreas.
Warning Signs of Diabetes
- Frequent urination
- Unusual thirst
- Extreme hunger
- Unusual weight loss
- Extreme fatigue
- Blurred vision
- Cuts or bruises that are slow to heal
- Tingling or numbness in the hands or feet
Recurring skin, gum or bladder infections
Complications of Diabetes
The goals of diabetes treatment are to control your blood glucose levels and prevent diabetes complications. Your diabetes healthcare team will focus on these three areas to help you achieve optimum health:
When you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, you need to be very aware of not only what you eat, but also when and how much you eat. Following a meal plan can also help you lose weight and lower your risk of developing complications.
Physical activity is an important part of controlling diabetes and preventing complications such as heart disease and high blood pressure. “We know that exercise is a very effective way to help bring blood sugars under control for someone with type 2 diabetes,” says Kenneth Snow, M.D., Acting Chief, Adult Diabetes, Joslin Clinic. Try for 30 minutes of moderate exercise, like brisk walking, on most days.
If you have type 2 Diabetes sometimes eating healthy and engaging in physical activity is not enough. Your doctor may give you oral medication to help control your blood glucose levels. For people with type 1 Diabetes (and some people with type 2 diabetes) this means taking insulin. People with type 1 diabetes must take insulin to control diabetes–and this can only be done through multiple injections or by an insulin pump, a small device that delivers insulin continuously throughout the day.