Diabetes: Symptoms, causes, and treatments

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Diabetes, often referred to by doctors as diabetes mellitus, describes a group of metabolic diseases in which the person has high blood glucose (blood sugar), either because insulin production is inadequate, or because the body’s cells do not respond properly to insulin, or both. Patients with high blood sugar will typically experience polyuria (frequent urination), they will become increasingly thirsty (polydipsia) and hungry (polyphagia).Here are some key points about diabetes. More detail and supporting information is in the main article.
There are three types of diabetes:
1) Type 1 diabetes
The body does not produce insulin. Some people may refer to this type as insulin-dependent diabetes, juvenile diabetes, or early-onset diabetes. People usually develop type 1 diabetes before their 40th year, often in early adulthood or teenage years.
Type 1 diabetes is nowhere near as common as type 2 diabetes. Approximately 10% of all diabetes cases are type 1.
Patients with type 1 diabetes will need to take insulin injections for the rest of their life. They must also ensure proper blood-glucose levels by carrying out regular blood tests and following a special diet.
Between 2001 and 2009, the prevalence of type 1 diabetes among the under 20s in the USA rose 23%, according to SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth data issued by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). (Link to article)
More information on type 1 diabetes is available in our type 1 diabetes page.
2) Type 2 diabetes
The body does not produce enough insulin for proper function, or the cells in the body do not react to insulin (insulin resistance).
Approximately 90% of all cases of diabetes worldwide are type 2.
Diabetes patient measuring glucose level in blood
Measuring the glucose level in blood
Some people may be able to control their type 2 diabetes symptoms by losing weight, following a healthy diet, doing plenty of exercise, and monitoring their blood glucose levels.
3) Gestational diabetes
This type affects females during pregnancy. Some women have very high levels of glucose in their blood, and their bodies are unable to produce enough insulin to transport all of the glucose into their cells, resulting in progressively rising levels of glucose.
Scientists from the National Institutes of Health and Harvard University found that women whose diets before becoming pregnant were high in animal fat and cholesterol had a higher risk for gestational diabetes, compared to their counterparts whose diets were low in cholesterol and animal fats. (Link to article)
Symptoms Of Diabetes
By The MNT Editorial Team Last updated Tue 5 January 2016
What is diabetes?
Diabetes Symptoms
Statistics, Facts & Myths
Diagnosis of Diabetes
Diabetes Complications
What is Insulin?
Discovery of Insulin
Famous Diabetics
Treatments for Diabetes
Self Monitoring
Food Planning
Exercise
Taking Insulin
Insulin Pumps
It is possible to have diabetes with only very mild symptoms or without developing any symptoms at all. Such cases can leave some people with diabetes unaware of the condition and undiagnosed. This happens in around half of people with type 2 diabetes.1,2
The most common signs and symptoms of diabetes are:
Frequent urination
[water]
Excessive thirst and frequent urination are classic symptoms of diabetes.
Have you been going to the bathroom to urinate more often recently? Do you notice that you spend most of the day going to the toilet? When there is too much glucose (sugar) in your blood you will urinate more often.
If your insulin is ineffective, or not there at all, your kidneys cannot filter the glucose back into the blood. The kidneys will take water from your blood in order to dilute the glucose – which in turn fills up your bladder.
Disproportionate thirst
If you are urinating more than usual, you will need to replace that lost liquid. You will be drinking more than usual. Have you been drinking more than usual lately?
Weight gain
This might be the result of the above symptom (intense hunger).
Unusual weight loss
This is more common among people with Diabetes Type 1. As your body is not making insulin it will seek out another energy source (the cells aren’t getting glucose). Muscle tissue and fat will be broken down for energy. As Type 1 is of a more sudden onset and Type 2 is much more gradual, weight loss is more noticeable with Type 1.
Increased fatigue
If your insulin is not working properly, or is not there at all, glucose will not be entering your cells and providing them with energy. This will make you feel tired and listless.
Irritability
Irritability can be due to your lack of energy.
Blurred vision
This can be caused by tissue being pulled from your eye lenses. This affects your eyes’ ability to focus. With proper treatment this can be treated. There are severe cases where blindness or prolonged vision problems can occur.
Cuts and bruises don’t heal properly or quickly
Do you find cuts and bruises take a much longer time than usual to heal? When there is more sugar (glucose) in your body, its ability to heal can be undermined.
More skin and/or yeast infections
When there is more sugar in your body, its ability to recover from infections is affected. Women with diabetes find it especially difficult to recover from bladder and vaginal infections.
Itchy skin
A feeling of itchiness on your skin is sometimes a symptom of diabetes.
Gums are red and/or swollen – Gums pull away from teeth
If your gums are tender, red and/or swollen this could be a sign of diabetes. Your teeth could become loose as the gums pull away from them.
Causes of type 1 diabetes
The gradual destruction of beta cells in the pancreas that eventually results in the onset of type 1 diabetes is the result of autoimmune destruction. The immune system turning against the body’s own cells is possibly triggered by an environmental factor exposed to people who have a genetic susceptibility.2Although the mechanisms of type 1 diabetes etiology are unclear, they are thought to involve the interaction of multiple factors:2Susceptibility genes – some of which are carried by over 90% of patients with type 1 diabetes. Some populations – Scandinavians and Sardinians, for example – are more likely to have susceptibility genes
Autoantigens – proteins thought to be released or exposed during normal pancreas beta cell turnover or injury such as that caused by infection. The autoantigens activate an immune response resulting in beta cell destructionViruses – coxsackievirus, rubella virus, cytomegalovirus, Epstein-Barr virus and retroviruses are among those that have been linked to type 1 diabetesDiet – infant exposure to dairy products, high nitrates in drinking water and low vitamin D intake have also been linked to the development of type 1 diabetes.Life with type 1 diabetes
Diabetes monitoring.Health care professionals usually teach people with type 1 diabetes to self-manage the condition.

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