The Basics of Diabetes
What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a disease in which blood glucose levels are above normal. Most of the food we eat is turned into glucose, or sugar, for our bodies to use for energy. The pancreas, an organ that lies near the stomach, makes a hormone called insulin to help glucose get into the cells of our bodies. When you have diabetes, your body either doesn't make enough insulin or can't use its own insulin as well as it should. This causes sugar to build up in your blood.
What are the types of diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes, which was previously called insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM) or juvenile-onset diabetes, may account for about 5% of all diagnosed cases of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body does not produce insulin, and without it, the body's cells are unable to receive and use glucose for energy. Type 1 patients need to take insulin to survive.
What causes type 1 diabetes?
The causes of type 1 diabetes appear to be much different than those for type 2 diabetes, though the exact mechanisms for developing both diseases are unknown. The appearance of type 1 diabetes is suspected to follow exposure to an "environmental trigger", such as an unidentified virus, stimulating an immune attack against the beta cells of the pancreas (that produce insulin) in some genetically predisposed people.
Type 2 diabetes, which was previously called non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) or adult-onset diabetes, may account for 90% to 95% of all diagnosed cases of diabetes. Unlike people with type 1 diabetes, people with type 2 diabetes produce insulin; however, either their pancreas does not produce enough insulin or the body cannot use the insulin adequately. This is called insulin resistance. When there isn't enough insulin or the insulin is not used as it should be, glucose (sugar) can't get into the body's cells. When glucose builds up in the blood instead of going into the cells, the body's cells are not able to function properly. Type 2 diabetes patients may take oral medication, insulin or both.
What causes type 2 diabetes?
Anyone can get type 2 diabetes. However, those at highest risk for diabetes are those who: are over 45, are obese or overweight, have had gestational diabetes, have family members who have type 2 diabetes, have pre-diabetes, are inactive, have low HDL cholesterol or high triglycerides levels, have high blood pressure, are members of certain racial or ethnic groups. Type 2 can run in families, but the exact nature of how it's inherited or the identity of a single genetic factor is not known.
Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the United States.
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