Diabetes Basics: What You Need to Know

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But what is diabetes?  There are several different types, but all involve problems with how effectively your body is able to use glucose (blood sugar) as fuel for our cells. 

Type 1 diabetes (formerly called juvenile diabetes) is an autoimmune disease that attacks the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin.  Because they produce little to no insulin, they will need insulin injections. 

Type 2 diabetes is initially a disease of insulin resistance that evolves into an inadequate production of insulin as well as affecting liver sugar production and storage, some gut hormones and possibly other fuel systems in the body.  It is the most prevalent form of diabetes and while it is more common in individuals over 40 years of age that are overweight, it can occur in anyone, even children. Pre-diabetes is an early stage of type 2 diabetes.  Lifestyle treatment during this stage can help you avoid diabetes all together.  

Gestational Diabetes occurs in pregnancy, when hormone changes affect insulin’s ability to work properly.  Blood sugar problems resolve after pregnancy but approximately 60% of these women will go on to develop type 2 diabetes later in their lives. 

 

Uncontrolled diabetes (when blood sugars remain elevated) can lead to heart disease, stroke, eye complications such as cataracts and glaucoma, foot damage, kidney disease, and other complications. In some cases, you can prevent or manage diabetes through diet and exercise. In others, insulin injections or other medications are necessary to control blood sugar levels.

 

Diabetes is often hereditary, but especially type 2 diabetes is strongly connected to poor lifestyle habits.   Even if no one in your family has ever had diabetes you can get it. 

 

Type 1 Diabetes symptoms often develop suddenly, and can be severe, including:

  • Increased thirst
  • Increased hunger (especially after eating)
  • Dry mouth
  • Frequent urination
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Labored or heavy breathing

 

Type 2 Diabetes symptoms can be the same as Type 1. Most often, however, there are no symptoms or a very gradual development of symptoms. Other symptoms sometimes associated with Type 2 Diabetes are:

 

  • Slow healing cuts or sores
  • Itchy skin
  • Yeast infection
  • Recent weight gain
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands and/or feet
  • Impotence or erectile dysfunction

 

If you experience several of these symptoms, you should consult with your doctor. Simple blood tests can be done to determine if you have diabetes or might be at higher risk.  If your doctor determines that you have pre-diabetes lifestyle changes have a greater than 60% chance of helping you avoid type 2 diabetes altogether.  Your doctor and diabetes educator can help you make a plan to prevent or manage all types of diabetes.

 

If you have questions regarding diabetes, Intermountain Healthcare and KUTV 2 will be holding “Ask The Expert” on Tuesday, August 9th.  Medical experts will answer questions about diabetes during interviews on air and over the phone with callers from noon to 5:30 p.m. 

Those interested can call 866-493-0060 to speak free of charge to one of the Intermountain experts, including doctors, nurses, certified diabetes educators, and other medical professionals, or receive answers via Facebook or Twitter using #kutvasktheexpert.