Diabetes is a disorder of metabolism-the way our bodies use digested food for growth and energy. Most of the food we eat is broken down into glucose, the form of sugar in the blood. Glucose is the main source of fuel for the body.
After digestion, glucose passes into the bloodstream, where it is used by cells for growth and energy. For glucose to get into cells, insulin must be present. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas, a large gland behind the stomach.
When we eat, the pancreas automatically produces the right amount of insulin to move glucose from blood into our cells. In people with diabetes, however, the pancreas either produces little or no insulin, or the cells do not respond appropriately to the insulin that is produced. Glucose builds up in the blood, overflows into the urine, and passes out of the body. Thus, the body loses its main source of fuel even though the blood contains large amounts of glucose.
Types of diabetes
Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas no longer produces insulin. The body needs insulin to use sugar for energy. Approximately 10 per cent of people with diabetes have type 1 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or when the body does not effectively use the insulin that is produced. 90 per cent of people with diabetes have type 2 diabetes.
Gestational diabetes is a temporary condition that occurs during pregnancy. It affects approximately 3.5 per cent of all pregnancies and involves an increased risk of developing diabetes for both mother and child
How is diabetes treated?
Today, more than ever before, people with diabetes can expect to live active, independent and vital lives if they make a lifelong commitment to careful diabetes treatment and management.
Diabetes is treated in the following ways:
- Education: Diabetes education is an important first step. All people with diabetes need to learn about their condition in order to make healthy lifestyle choices and manage their diabetes.
- Physical Activity: Regular physical activity helps your body lower blood glucose levels, promotes weight loss, reduces stress and enhances overall fitness.
- Nutrition: What, when and how much you eat all play an important role in regulating how well your body manages blood glucose levels.
- Weight Management: Maintaining a healthy weight is especially important in the management of type 2 diabetes.
- Medication: Type 1 diabetes is always treated with insulin. Type 2 diabetes is managed through physical activity and meal planning and may require diabetes medications and/or insulin to assist your body in making or using insulin more effectively.
- Lifestyle Management: Learning to reduce stress levels in day-to-day life can help people with diabetes better manage their disease.
- Blood Pressure: High blood pressure can lead to eye disease, heart disease, stroke and kidney disease, so people with diabetes should try to maintain a blood pressure at or below 130/80.To do this, you may need to change your eating and physical activity habits and/or take diabetes medication.
What if I have type 1 diabetes?
Type 1 is the type of diabetes that people most often get before 30 years of age. All people with type 1 diabetes need to take insulin (IN-suh-lin) because their bodies do not make enough of it. Insulin helps turn food into energy for the body to work.
What if I have type 2 diabetes?
Type 2 is the type of diabetes most people get as adults after the age of 40. But you can also get this kind of diabetes at a younger age.
Healthy eating, exercise, and losing weight may help you lower your blood glucose (also called blood sugar) when you find out you have type 2 diabetes. If these treatments do not work, you may need one or more types of diabetes pills to lower your blood glucose. After a few more years, you may need to take insulin shots because your body is not making enough insulin.
You, your doctor, and your diabetes teacher should always find the best diabetes treatment plan for you.
How do you know if you have diabetes?
Early diagnosis of diabetes is extremely important. The earlier diabetes is diagnosed, the sooner steps can be taken to manage it and prevent or delay complications. The Canadian Diabetes Association 2003 Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Prevention and Management of Diabetes in Canada recommend routine screening every three years for everyone age 40 or older and screening every year for individuals with other risk factors.
Can you prevent diabetes?
Scientists believe that lifestyle and type 2 diabetes are closely linked.This means that lifestyle is one area individuals can focus on to help prevent or delay the onset of the condition. A healthy meal plan, weight control, physical activity and stress reduction are important prevention steps.
What are the diabetes symptoms?
Signs and symptoms of diabetes include the following:
- Unusual thirst
- Frequent urination
- Weight change (gain or loss)
- Extreme fatigue or lack of energy
- Blurred vision
- Frequent or recurring infections
- Cuts and bruises that are slow to heal
- Tingling or numbness in the hands or feet
- Trouble getting or maintaining an erection
- It is important to recognize, however, that many people who have type 2 diabetes may display no symptoms.
What do I need to know about diabetes medication?
Many types of diabetes medication can help people with type 2 diabetes lower their blood glucose. Each type of diabetes medication helps lower blood glucose in a different way. The diabetes pill (or medication) you take is from one of these groups. You might know your pill (or medication) by a different name.
Sulfonylureas (SUL-fah-nil-YOO-ree-ahs) stimulate your pancreas to make more insulin.
Biguanides (by-GWAN-ides) decrease the amount of glucose made by your liver.
Alpha-glucosidase inhibitors (AL-fa gloo-KOS-ih-dayss in-HIB-it-ers) slow the absorption of the starches you eat.
Thiazolidinediones (THIGH-ah-ZO-li-deen-DYE-owns) make you more sensitive to insulin.
Meglitinides (meh-GLIT-in-ides) stimulate your pancreas to make more insulin.
D-phenylalanine (dee-fen-nel-AL-ah-neen) derivatives help your pancreas make more insulin quickly.
Combination oral medicines put together different kinds of medication.