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Facts about Diabetes
These are some of the facts about diabetes that many people want to know.
Q. What is diabetes?
A. Diabetes is a condition in which your blood glucose (or blood sugar) is too high. (Your blood has to have some glucose in it because your body needs glucose for energy.
There are three main types of diabetes:
- Type 1 diabetes, in which the body's immune system is compromised, causing it to attack and kill the pancreas' beta cells which are the source of insulin
- Type 2 diabetes, which usually begins as insulin resistance, a disorder in which, although the body is producing insulin, it is either not producing enough, or the body is not able to use it properly
- Gestational diabetes, which is found only in pregnant women. It usually disappears after the birth of the baby. Women who have had the disease are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than women who have not had it.
Read "What is Diabetes" for more information about the nature of diabetes.
Q. What causes diabetes?
A. Scientists believe that type 1 diabetes is caused by a faulty immune system which attacks and kills the beta cells in the pancreas. Beta cells manufacture insulin. It is also thought that people with type 1 diabetes have an inherited tendency or predisposition to the disease, which when triggered by certain chemicals or viruses, causes the onset of the disease. Type 2 diabetes is caused by a variety of factors, such as genetics, poor eating habits, lack of exercise, and stress. Many type 2 diabetics are able to produce insulin, but either they don't produce enough, or they aren't able to use it efficiently. Gestational diabetes is caused by changes in hormones (possibly a reduction in insulin production) during pregnancy.
Read "What Causes Diabetes" for more information on the causes of diabetes.
Q. What types of diabetes are there?
A. Three kinds: type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes. In type 1 diabetes, the immune system mistakenly attacks and kills the beta cells in the pancreas. Since the beta cells are the body's only source of insulin, people with type 1 diabetes have to take it, usually by injection. In type 2 diabetes, the body's immune system does not attack the beta cells in the pancreas but, for some reason, either not enough insulin is being produced, or the body is not able to use it properly. Gestational diabetes is found only in some pregnant women, and it usually disappears after the birth of the baby. However, women who have had the disease are much more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than women who have not had it.
Read "Types of Diabetes" for more information on the types of diabetes.
Q. What are the symptoms of diabetes?
A. Symptoms of: type 1 diabetes include a frequent need to urinate, tiredness or lethargy, labored breathing, extreme thirst, unexplained weight loss, sudden changes in vision, fruity breath odor, and unconsciousness; type 2 diabetes can include all the symptoms for type 1, plus hard-to-heal cuts, scrapes, and abrasions of the skin, gum infections, infections of the urinary tract, tingling in hands and feet, and itching of the skin; gestational diabetes symptoms include extreme thirst, frequent need to urinate, increased hunger and blurred vision.
Read "Symptoms of Diabetes" for more information on the symptoms of diabetes.
Q. Is there a diabetes cure?
A. There is no cure for diabetes at this time. However, scientists are hopeful that current research and trials on pancreas and beta cell transplants, on an artificial pancreas, and other studies will yield a cure (or cure-like results) in the near future.
Read "Diabetes Cure" for more information on a diabetes cure.
Q. What constitutes diabetes care?
A. Diabetes care includes a plan to monitor blood glucose levels, administer insulin (if necessary), and to maintain a healthy diet and get regular exercise. Care plans vary according to individual needs and the type of diabetes being treated.
Read "Diabetes Care" for more information on caring for people with diabetes.
Q. What kinds of diabetes medications are there?
A. The main diabetes medication is insulin, which all type 1, and some type 2 diabetics must take. There are many kinds of insulin. From those that act slowly, but remain in the system for a long time, to those that act quickly and are gone from the system in a short time. There is even an inhaled insulin that's available for some diabetics. Many other drugs can be used to manage other effects of diabetes. For example, a drug called pramlintide (Symlin) can help reduce blood-level swings, and low-dose aspirin therapy can help ward off heart and blood vessel problems.
Read "Diabetes Medication" for more information on diabetes medications.
Q. What diabetic supplies are available?
A. There are all kinds diabetic supplies and gadgets for people with type 1 diabetes, some more vital than others. They range from essential blood sugar testing gear and insulin delivery systems to diabetes-related tote bags and T-shirts.
Read "Diabetic Supplies" for more information about diabetic supplies.
Q. What's being done about diabetes prevention?
A. At present, there is no known prevention for type 1 diabetes. However, there are many studies being conducted to find a way to keep at-risk people (people who have a parent or a sibling with type 1 diabetes) from getting the disease. Type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes can be prevented, however, by maintaining a healthy weight, getting exercise, and by eating the right foods.
See "Diabetes Prevention" for more information on the prevention of the disease.