Diabetes mellitus is a disorder that affects the body’s ability to produce or use insulin. Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas that allows the body’s cells to process glucose (blood sugar) for energy.
Diabetes produces abnormal levels of glucose in the bloodstream. This can cause serious short and long term consequences, ranging from insulin shock to heart disease and sexual dysfunction.
Forms of diabetes include:
- Type 1 diabetes. An autoimmune disease that destroys the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas and usually occurs in childhood.
- Type 2 diabetes. A metabolic disorder that often involves obesity and insulin resistance. It is by far the most common type of diabetes and usually develops in adulthood.
- Gestational diabetes. A temporary condition that can affect any woman during pregnancy.
- Secondary diabetes. Diabetes that results from another disease, such as pancreatitis, or medical treatment, such as corticosteroid therapy.
- Latent autoimmune diabetes of adulthood. A variation of type 1 diabetes that usually develops after age 30.
- Diabetes onset in the maturity of young people. A rare inherited disorder that causes diabetes in people with particular genetic defects.
The causes of diabetes are complex and only partially understood. Risk factors include genetics, family history, excess weight, physical inactivity, age, race and environment.
Signs and symptoms vary and are not always present Possible indicators of diabetes may include unexplained weight loss, frequent infections, slow wound healing, vision problems and excessive thirst, urination and hunger. Doctors rely on glucose tests for diagnosis.
Treatment includes diet, exercise and, often, medications. All people with type 1 diabetes and some people with other forms of diabetes require regular insulin therapy. Many diabetic patients are prescribed antidiabetic agents, cholesterol medications and blood pressure medications.
Patients require regular medical attention and should perform self-care, including glucose control, ketone testing and foot care. By monitoring glucose and following other aspects of their treatment plan, patients can avoid complications such as chronic renal failure that sometimes leads to dialysis, blindness, amputation and diabetic coma.
The incidence of diabetes is increasing worldwide. There is no known way to prevent some forms of the disease, but people can reduce their risk of pre-diabetes, type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes by maintaining a normal weight, participating in regular physical activities, eating a sensible diet, not smoking or abusing alcohol and receive regular medical attention.