Diabetes is a disease in which your body is not able to control the amount (or level) of glucose (sugar) in the blood. This may happen because:
- Your pancreas doesn’t produce any insulin
- Your pancreas produces insulin but not enough
- Your body resists the action of insulin
Managing diabetes is important because when your blood glucose level remains high for long periods of time, damage can be done to your heart, your eyes, and your kidneys.
Let’s begin with the basics.
There are different kinds of diabetes:
- Type 1 diabetes
- Type 2 diabetes
- Gestational diabetes
Type 1 diabetes
Type 1 is not the most common type of diabetes, and affects less than 1 in 5 people with diabetes. It is sometimes referred to as juvenile onset diabetes — mostly because it is generally diagnosed in childhood — but this term is outdated. It was also previously known as “insulin-dependent” diabetes.
- No one knows what causes type 1 diabetes.
- Type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented.
- There is no cure for type 1 diabetes, but it can be treated with insulin. Insulin is not available as a tablet or pill, and needs to be injected into the body.
- Type 1 diabetes is a serious disease, but you can live a long, healthy life with the right treatment and support.
Type 2 diabetes
People used to refer to type 2 diabetes as non-insulin-dependent diabetes because it was a kind of diabetes that did not require treatment with insulin. But in fact, some people with type 2 diabetes do need to use insulin.
- Type 2 diabetes is usually diagnosed in people over the age of 40, but recently it’s being diagnosed more often in teenagers and children, especially those who do not lead an active lifestyle and/or are overweight.
- Like type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes is a serious disease. But the good news is that it can be managed and even prevented
- With type 2 diabetes, your body still produces insulin — but it is not producing enough or it may be resisting what insulin does for you. This means that your blood glucose levels continue to rise and your body’s cells don’t receive enough glucose.
- Sometimes changing your diet to one that is healthier and increasing your amount of exercise is enough to keep your blood glucose levels controlled. Medications can also be used, and your doctor and/or diabetes educator will discuss them with you.
A note about prediabetes: Many people who go on to develop type 2 diabetes have prediabetes first. This is a condition in which your blood glucose level is higher than normal, but not as high as in someone with diabetes. If you have prediabetes, making real changes to your lifestyle may help you avoid developing diabetes.
This form of diabetes is diagnosed during pregnancy. As your baby develop, hormones that your body produces increases the need for insulin. If you are unable to produce this additional insulin, your blood glucose level will rise.
Gestational diabetes is not the same as other kinds of diabetes. It usually disappears once you give birth, although there is the possibility that you will develop diabetes while you are pregnant.
What are the symptoms of diabetes?
Some people never show any signs of the disease. This is why regular check-ups with your doctor are so important.
Some of the signs and symptoms of diabetes include:
- Feeling tired
- Feeling the need to urinate frequently
- Being unusually thirsty, or having a dry mouth
- Frequent infections, or infections that keep coming back
- Blurry vision in one or both eyes
- A tingling sensation in your hands or feet
- Weight gain or loss
Reducing your risk
The genetic factors that might cause a person to develop type 1 diabetes cannot be controlled.
In type 2 diabetes, some of the most common risk factors — being overweight or obese, having high blood pressure or high cholesterol, or leading an inactive lifestyle, or not eating properly — can be controlled.
Modifiable risk factors – in other words, risk factors that we can change – include:
- Lowering blood pressure and cholesterol
- Losing excess weight
- Stopping smoking
- Ensuring the adequate intake of nutrients from food and/or supplements
Want more information and support? Search “diabetes” in Find Support for organizations in your area.