Diabetes Explained: 2 Common Types and 1 That's Less Common

Diabetes is a very serious disease that is on the rise in north America. The experts are calling it an epidemic because the number of diabetic cases (type 2) are rising dramatically. Almost 10% of the north American population has diabetes, and this does not take into account the people that may be border line but have not been diagnosed. The reasons for this are really quite simple: lifestyle choices!

Diabetes is a disease in which the body can't properly store and use fuel for energy. The fuel that your body needs is called glucose, a form of sugar. Glucose comes from foods such as breads, cereals, pasta, rice, potatoes, fruits and some vegetables. To use glucose, your body needs insulin. Insulin is made by a gland in your body called the pancreas.

Type 1 diabetes, which involves the malfunction of the pancreas, makes up very few cases of diabetes. About 10% of diabetics have type 1. This number is not on the rise. No one knows exactly why this occurs but genetic predisposition is a big factor. It is a permanent condition, and there is no cure for it. The main reason Type 1 occurs is because the body's own immune system attacks the insulin producing cells of the pancreas. The pancreas is the organ that produces insulin, which is the hormone responsible for triggering cell receptors which allow the cells to absorb consumed sugars. This is a very important physiological process, that, if it malfunctions, can lead to serious health consequences. Preventing type 1 diabetes can not be done. Don't worry too much about this one. However, if it runs in your family genetics, you should discuss this with your physician and get yearly tests done, so, if you get it you will know right away so you can prevent the side affects.

Although no one really knows what causes type 1 diabetes, it is known that:

  • There is nothing you could have done to prevent type 1 diabetes, even if you had been to see the doctor sooner.
  • The body's defense system may attack your insulin-making cells by mistake, but the reason why is unknown.
  • People usually find out they have type 1 diabetes before the age of 30, most often in childhood or during their teens.
  • It is not caused by eating too much sugar.

Type 2 diabetes, which involves damage to the receptors on the cells that absorb the sugars that are consumed, is the type that is on the rise. About 90% of diabetics have type 2. Avoiding type 2 is quite easy, but most people don't even think about it until they have the disease. Sometimes it can be reversed, but, obviously this is much harder than preventing it. The best way to prevent getting type 2, or to try and reverse it, is through lifestyle choices.

  • exercise daily: this can be whatever you want as long as you're moving
  • lose excess fat
  • avoid foods high in simple sugars/carbohydrates e.g. pop, cakes, cookies, etc.
  • avoid excessive intake of alcohol, as it can act as simple sugars in the body
  • in some cases a doctor may prescribe medication

There is a third type, which sometimes happens to women when they are pregnant. This is called gestational diabetes. Most of the time it goes away after the baby is born. But some experts believe that the mother is now more susceptible to developing diabetes later on.

The following are warning signs that you may have diabetes, or are close to getting it. If you have any of these warning signs you should go to your doctor for a proper check.

  • constant excessive thirst: this occurs because your body needs to rid of sugars in your blood that you've consumed, and it can only do this via the kidneys and urine
  • excessive urination: related to excessive thirst
  • unexplainable weight loss: this may sound great to some, but there is severe damage occurring to the blood vessels while this is happening, it has to do with ketosis
  • unexplainable weight gain: this is less common than weight loss, but it has been known to happen
  • blurred vision or a decrease in vision quality
  • wounds (e.g. cuts, scrapes) that take a long time to get better, or get infected
  • breath that smells like alcohol, nail polish remover, or like a rotting apple
  • aggressive behavior that is not normal
  • drunk-like behavior
  • constant hunger
  • constant fatigue
  • erectile dysfunction
  • poor circulation to extremities

The testing of diabetes is really quite simple. It involves checking for your fasting plasma glucose. Which means checking to see how much sugar is in the blood plasma after 12 hours of not eating. Usually a fasting glucose level of 7.0 mmol/L or higher is considered diabetic. But even lower levels can be considered pre-diabetic and action is required. The test can also involve the person consuming a sugary liquid, and repeated hourly test to see how well the body deals with the sugar absorption.

Diabetes, especially if left unchecked, can cause havoc with one's health:

  • heart disease/attack
  • stroke
  • blindness
  • infections and amputations
  • kidney failure

There are two types of diabetic emergencies that a diabetic can suffer from. Hyperglycemia, also known as diabetic coma, is a situation where there is too much sugar in the blood, and not enough insulin. It can occur by not taking medication and/or by eating things high in glucose. Hypoglycemia, also known as insulin shock, is where there is not enough sugar and too much insulin. This can occur if too much insulin is taken or not enough glucose has been consumed.

Warning Signs of a Diabetic Emergency

  • Dizziness, drowsiness, and confusion.
  • Rapid breathing.
  • Rapid pulse.
  • Feeling and looking ill.
  • Unconsciousness.

First Aid

  • Confirm their condition by asking the person if they have any medical conditions or if they have diabetes.
  • Find out if they need something to eat or if they need medication.
  • If they need something to eat then assist them in doing so.
  • If they need medication call 9-1-1.
  • Make the person comfortable e.g. by having them lie down.
  • If their condition continues or becomes worse, call 9-1-1, if you haven't already done so.
  • If they become unconscious, and you are trained, begin rescue breathing and/or CPR.
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