The information here is part one of a four part series we will be publishing on diabetes. Here you will find a basic definition of the disease, along with some information about Type 1 diabetes. In subsequent writings, we look forward to presenting you with more information about Type 2 diabetes, medication management, as well as exercise and dietary changes you can make to manage your disease. Check back often!
Diabetes: Part 1 of 4
According to the CDC, nearly two thirds of American adults are either overweight or obese. This alarming statistic comes with a wave of health issues from cardiovascular disease to joint problems. But perhaps the most prevalent weight related comorbidity is diabetes.
What exactly is diabetes? Diabetes is a disease that occurs when your body cannot regulate the amount of sugar in your blood stream in the way it should. Insulin, a molecule produced by the beta cells of the pancreas, acts as a “key” of sorts. Insulin unlocks our cells and allows glucose to move into them. Once in the cells, glucose can be used as energy or stored for later use. Insulin is the key to controlling how much glucose moves into our cells and how much remains “free floating” in our bloodstreams. When you hear the term “blood sugar level,” this is to what it refers; the amount of glucose in our bloodstream that has not been taken up by cells.
In diabetes patients, there is either a lack of insulin being produced by the pancreas (Type 1 diabetes) or a lack of the body’s ability to effectively use the insulin it does produce (Type 2 diabetes.) Historically, Type 1 diabetes has been referred to as juvenile diabetes. This is a misnomer, however. While Type 1 is the most common type of diabetes in pediatric patients, it is possible to develop Type 1 diabetes as an adult. Type 2 is much more common in adults, however, particularly in at risk groups. Likewise, children can develop Type 2 diabetes. Unfortunately, we are seeing more and more of this.
People at a higher risk for developing Type 2 diabetes include those who are overweight or obese, those with a family history of diabetes or those who had gestational diabetes during pregnancy, and members of the African American and Hispanic communities. Type 2 diabetes is sometimes called NIDDM: non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus. Why non-insulin dependent? Because the pancreases of Type 2 patients DO produce insulin. Their bodies are just not using it effectively.
Type 1 diabetes patients are dependent on insulin. The beta cells in a Type 1 patient produce little to no insulin, so these patients must rely on injectable insulin to regular their blood sugar. Because of the way insulin is metabolized, injectable or IV insulins are the only options. There has been some research conducted with inhalable insulin, but injectable continues to be the most common form. Some Type 1 diabetes patients, depending on their risk profiles, have small insulin pumps inserted or connected to them at all times. The pumps are continuously monitoring the patient’s blood sugar and putting insulin into the blood stream to regulate it. Some Type 1 patients prefer to give themselves subcutaneous injections throughout the day. These injections are typically done with small needles into the fat layer under the skin.