What Are the Basics of Diabetes?

Overview

Diabetes, also called diabetes mellitus, is a disease when your blood glucose (blood sugar) is too high. It occurs when insulin production is inadequate, or your body’s cells do not respond properly to insulin. Insulin regulates the metabolism of carbohydrates, by promoting the absorption of carbohydrates, especially glucose from the blood into liver, fat and skeletal muscle cells. Inadequate insulin production or low responding to insulin causes excess sugars exist in your blood, which may lead to severe problems.

Over time, having too much glucose in your blood can cause health problems, such as heart disease, nerve damage, eye problems, and kidney disease. These are called complications of diabetes. These complications can be prevented when you manage your blood glucose well.

About 30 million people in the United States have diabetes. About one in four people with diabetes don’t know they have the disease.

 

Symptoms

The symptoms of diabetes vary from one to another. People with type 2 diabetes may not experience any symptoms, or the symptoms appear gradually. However, the symptoms of type 1 diabetes may appear quickly. The common symptoms of diabetes include:

  • Fatigue
  • Increased thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Extreme hunger
  • Irritability
  • Blurred vision
  • Slow-healing sores
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Frequent infections, such as gums or skin infections and vaginal infections.

 

Causes

There are two types of chronic diabetes — type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes:

Causes of type 1 diabetes

The exact cause of type 1 diabetes is unknown. What is known is that your immune system attacks and destroys your insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. This leaves you with little or no insulin. Instead of being transported into your cells, sugar builds up in your bloodstream.

Causes of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes

In type 2 diabetes, your cells become resistant to the action of insulin, and your pancreas is unable to make enough insulin to overcome this resistance. Instead of moving into your cells where it’s needed for energy, sugar builds up in your bloodstream.

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