What Is Diabetes Anyway?

Woman removing blood from her finger testing blood sugar (Microsoft Clip Art - Image by Royalty-Free/Corbis)What is diabetes, and what are the different types of the disease?

In the simplest of terms, diabetes – or “diabetes mellitus” –  is a medical condition that causes a person to have an elevated blood glucose (or “sugar”) level.  As I understand it, it’s usually because the body isn’t 1) producing enough insulin to begin with or 2) can’t properly use the insulin that is being produced. There are three  main types of diabetes: type 1, gestational and type 2.

Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in childhood. It occurs when the pancreatic cells cannot produce insulin. A few people I know have type 1, and are heavily insulin dependent – that is, they either need daily injections of insulin, or, in a couple of people I know, they actually have an insulin pump that they actually “wear” – it delivers the insulin automatically (in their case – it may be different for other people) through this little tube into . One guy I know has lived many, many years with an insulin pump – and is doing very well, all things considered.

Type 2 diabetes occurs when the pancreatic cells produce insulin, but the body is unable to use it. Type 2 is the most common form of this condition.  This is the type my Dad has and has been taking oral medication for over the last 10 or 15 years. This is type also known as “adult onset” diabetes. I could (and probably will) go into this a lot more since I’m kind of on a “lifestyle improvement” path myself. Frankly, I do not want to be depending on medication if I can control this myself. Hence this website.

But I digress…

Finally, gestational diabetes is a form of type 2 diabetes that affects approximately eight percent of pregnant women. I have known at least 3 different young women who developed gestational diabetes – but fortunately, none of them have this issue. It did seem to resolve itself after their kids were born. However, one thing I noticed was that in one of the young moms I know, I also know her mom, and I recall her mom telling me that she does have type 2. So, I don’t know if there is a tendency toward the disease in this case…

What are some of the symptoms of diabetes?

Frequent urination, weight loss, hunger and increased thirst are some of the main symptoms of diabetes. It is important to note that diabetes has a tendency to develop very slowly. That is why many people may not show any symptoms initially. This is particularly true for people who have type 2 diabetes. Many patients with diabetes live with it for years before they are formally diagnosed.

What Causes Diabetes (type 1 and type 2)?

The exact cause of type 1 diabetes remains unknown. However, researchers believe that it is caused by a genetic defect.  Type 2 diabetes is strongly correlated with being overweight. In fact, over eight percent of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight. Gestational diabetes occurs when the pregnancy hormones prevents insulin from doing its job.

You noticed that I “bolded” and “italicized” the bit about being overweight. Folks, this is just the tip of the iceberg! I’m really going to be tackling this topic here. We need to wake up and face this headon if we’re going to improve our lives. More on this later…

So, how can diabetes be prevented?

Because the exact causes of type 1 diabetes are not understood, there is nothing that people can do to prevent it. I remember one friend of mine who had been diagnosed when he was a very little boy told me that he had always been very active, and he didn’t eat junk food (frankly, there really just wasn’t a ton of junk food even available back in the early 60’s, at least in my memory. I never even saw a McDonalds until I was an adult!). This old friend had said that it just “happened” and he has lived with this all his life.

I am also very well aware that current, or at least most traditional medical doctors state that type 1 cannot be cured. I am also aware that there are DIFFERENT medical doctors today who do believe it can be cured. I’ll introduce some of them here as well. I don’t care if anyone says “well, it just cannot be cured.” I would (personally) prefer to find a doctor who would give me hope.

Type 2 diabetes can largely be prevented by exercising and maintaining a healthy body weight. Pregnant women can prevent gestational diabetes by seeking prenatal care early in their pregnancy. They also need to make sure that they keep their body weight within a healthy range.

Again, we’ll be talking a LOT more about all this… Stand by!