The term diabetes is derived from the Greek word diabaínein that literally means "passing through," or "siphon", a reference to one of diabetes' major symptoms—excessive urine production.
Because insulin is the principal hormone that regulates uptake of glucose into most cells from the blood (primarily muscle and fat cells, but not central nervous system cells), deficiency of insulin or the insensitivity of its receptors plays a central role in all forms of diabetes mellitus.
There are 20.8 million children and adults in the United States, or 7% of the population, who have diabetes. While an estimated 14.6 million have been diagnosed with diabetes, unfortunately, 6.2 million people (or nearly one-third) are unaware that they have the disease.
In order to determine whether or not a patient has pre-diabetes or diabetes, health care providers conduct a Fasting Plasma Glucose Test (FPG) or an Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT). Either test can be used to diagnose pre-diabetes or diabetes. The American Diabetes Association recommends the FPG because it is easier, faster, and less expensive to perform.
Major Types of Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes
Results from the body's failure to produce insulin, the hormone that "unlocks" the cells of the body, allowing glucose to enter and fuel them. It is estimated that 5-10% of Americans who are diagnosed with diabetes have type 1 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes
Results from insulin resistance (a condition in which the body fails to properly use insulin), combined with relative insulin deficiency. Most Americans who are diagnosed with diabetes have type 2 diabetes.
Symptoms of Type 2 diabetes may include fatigue, thirst, weight loss, blurred vision and frequent urination. Some people have no symptoms. A blood test can show if you have diabetes. Exercise, weight control and sticking to your meal plan can help control your diabetes. You should also monitor your glucose level and take medicine if prescribed.
Gestational diabetes affects about 4% of all pregnant women - about 135,000 cases in the United States each year.
Pre-diabetes is a condition that occurs when a person's blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough for a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. There are 54 million Americans who have pre-diabetes, in addition to the 20.8 million with diabetes.
Symptoms of type 1 diabetes are often dramatic and come on very suddenly.
Type 1 diabetes is usually recognized in childhood or early adolescence, often in association with an illness (such as a virus) or injury.
The extra stress can cause diabetic ketoacidosis.
Symptoms of ketoacidosis include nausea and vomiting. Dehydration and often-serious disturbances in blood levels of potassium follow.
Without treatment, ketoacidosis can lead to coma and death.
Symptoms of type 2 diabetes are often subtle and may be attributed to aging or obesity.
A person may have type 2 diabetes for many years without knowing it.
People with type 2 diabetes can develop hyperglycemic hyperosmolar nonketotic syndrome.
Type 2 diabetes can be precipitated by steroids and stress.
If not properly treated, type 2 diabetes can lead to complications like blindness, kidney failure, heart disease, and nerve damage.
Common symptoms of both major types of diabetes
Fatigue: In diabetes, the body is inefficient and sometimes unable to use glucose for fuel. The body switches over to metabolizing fat, partially or completely, as a fuel source. This process requires the body to use more energy. The end result is feeling fatigued or constantly tired.
Unexplained weight loss: People with diabetes are unable to process many of the calories in the foods they eat. Thus, they may lose weight even though they eat an apparently appropriate or even excessive amount of food. Losing sugar and water in the urine and the accompanying dehydration also contributes to weight loss.
Excessive thirst (polydipsia): A person with diabetes develops high blood sugar levels. The body tries to counteract this by sending a signal to the brain to dilute the blood, which translates into thirst. The body encourages more water consumption to dilute the high blood sugar back to normal levels and to compensate for the water lost by excessive urination.
Excessive urination (polyuria): Another way the body tries to get rid of the extra sugar in the blood is to excrete it in the urine. This can also lead to dehydration because excreting the sugar carries a large amount of water out of the body along with it.
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