What is diabetes and how does a person get diabetes to start with?
This is a questions that still gets asked a lot and today, I thought I would explain just what diabetes is. There are two main types of diabetes which you may have already heard of: Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.
Ok, so what is diabetes?
Diabetes is a disease which affects your body’s ability to produce a hormone called insulin. Insulin helps our body get the energy from the foods we eat.
When you eat foods that contain carbohydrate, it gets broken down in your stomach and digestive system into glucose. If you don’t know what glucose is, it’s a type of sugar. We need glucose from foods because that’s what gives us energy.
The body is supposed to work a little like this…
The glucose from foods that contain carbohydrate like starchy foods, sugary foods, fruit, milk and some dairy products moves into the blood stream and our body then detects that the body’s blood glucose level is rising.
In response, the pancreas starts releasing the hormone – insulin. From there, the blood stream takes the glucose and the insulin to every cell in our body that needs it. Insulin actually helps the glucose get into the cells where it can be used as energy. It’s kind of like insulin is a key that unlocks the doors of the cells so glucose can get in.
Once in, the body’s blood glucose level starts to drop. This is where the liver comes into play, as the glucose levels get low, the liver tops the levels back up and the pancreas starts to produce more insulin repeating the whole cycle.
Our body functions best when the blood glucose level is at an optimum level. The levels are determined by a cycle in the body which balances out the glucose and insulin levels and this is achieved by the food you eat, the pancreas and the liver.
However, for some people, the system just doesn’t work properly and they develop diabetes. Again, there are two types of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2.
Let’s take a closer look at both..
Understanding Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is the most common type found in childhood, which is why it’s also called juvenile diabetes. Type 1 is also the most common in patients under 40 and it accounts for around 15 percent of people with diabetes.
With type 1 diabetes, the body isn’t making any insulin at all. That’s because the body has destroyed the insulin producing cells in the pancreas. It’s still fully unsure why it happens with some people and not others.
Because the pancreas doesn’t make insulin, glucose can’t get into the body cells, so this causes the level of glucose in the blood to rise and rise. The body then tries to get rid of the glucose through the kidneys and that’s why people who have undiagnosed type 1 diabetes pee a lot.
As the kidneys filter out the glucose from the blood, they also filter out a lot of water, which is why people with undiagnosed type 1 diabetes tend to get very thirsty and drink a lot of fluids.
Now, because there is a lot of glucose in the urine it creates an environment where its easy for bacteria to thrive and it can cause things like thrush or genital itching.
This is the scary part…
Because there is a lot of glucose, not all is passed through the kidneys, so it stays in the blood. This often means more bacteria will grow in flesh wounds slowing down the healing process.
Glucose can also build up in the lens of the eye and cause the liquid in the eye to become cloudy which may cause blurred vision. Because the glucose can’t get into the cells to create energy, people with undiagnosed type 1 diabetes can often feel very tired, lethargic and unable to go about their daily routine.
People with undiagnosed type 1 diabetes may also experience weight loss. Because the body still needs its source of energy, it begins to break down its fat stores.
Type 1 Diabetes Symptoms
These symptoms often happen fairly quickly and are often over a course of a few weeks. Some main symptoms of type 1 diabetes are..
- Thrush or genital itching
- Blurred vision
- Weight loss
- Excess urinating
- Slow healing of wounds
Type 1 Diabetes Treatment
Type 1 diabetes treatment is all about good management and the following is a list of treatment given to most patients.
- Changing their diet
- Regular monitoring of the blood sugar levels
- Regular exercise
- Carbohydrate counting.
To be continued…
I’m still in the process of writing this article but will shortly discuss Type 2 diabetes and everything you need to know about diabetes in general. Hopefully this will clear everything up with your search for the definition of diabetes.