Diabetes refers to a group of similar diseases that affect how the body uses sugar (glucose)1. Glucose is essential for many body functions and functions as an energy source for muscles and the brain1. There are three main categories of diabetes: Type 1 diabetes, type two diabetes, and prediabetes. There are other similar issues as well such as gestational diabetes, which occurs during pregnancy. All of these diseases are characterized by high levels of glucose in the body, which can lead to serious health issues.
Early symptoms of diabetes include excessive thirst and urination, weight loss, and fatigue2. Long-term damage of diabetes includes: cardiovascular disease, nerve damage, kidney damage, eye damage, foot and skin damage3, and delayed wound healing. Luckily, diabetes is a disease that can be successfully managed to prevent complications or illness. Let’s looks at the different types of diabetes and their differences followed by how diabetes is managed.
Type 1 Diabetes
Also called juvenile diabetes, type 1 diabetes is when the pancreas produces little to no insulin, a hormone that helps to control blood-glucose levels in the body3. Widely considered to be an autoimmune disease, little is known about what causes type 1 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes has an early onset and is often diagnosed in children, although it can be diagnosed in adults as well. Insulin does not cure diabetes but can adequately manage it.
Prediabetes is a relatively new term that means you have higher levels of blood glucose than normal that are not high enough to be considered diabetic. Without intervention, people who are pre-diabetic have a good chance of developing type 2 diabetes. Luckily, with some lifestyle modifications, people who are pre-diabetic can get their blood glucose levels back within to normal range.
Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes4. Type 2 diabetes is characterized by the body’s inability to use insulin properly. Generally, in type 2 diabetes the body is initially able to maintain adequate blood glucose levels through the regulations of glucose in the body through the use of insulin. The body becomes less sensitive to insulin and has to produce more of it, this phenomenon is called insulin resistance4. Eventually, the body is unable to meet the demands necessary to maintain normal blood glucose levels. Consequently, blood glucose levels rise uncontrollably and create numerous symptoms congruent with diabetes.
How to Manage Diabetes
Diabetes dramatically impacts many aspects of life. Eating will no longer as easy as it was previously, you need to carry around supplies to monitor and try your blood glucose levels, and you always need to have something to eat in case your blood sugar levels get too low. Although there is no cure for diabetes, management can allow people with diabetes to live a normal life and to function normally. Depending on the ability of the individual with diabetes and the severity of the disease and/or the presence of other diseases, there are many ways to control your blood glucose levels and thus, manage the disease.
For people who are prediabetic, increasing your activity levels and monitoring what you eat can help to reduce your blood glucose levels. Instead of having to take insulin to break down the excess glucose in the body, exercise uses glucose to help fuel muscles during activity. Consequently, blood glucose levels are not as high. Similarly, eating food with less sugar (glucose) prevents the body from taking in too much sugar that it won’t use and will eventually have to break down with insulin. Exercise has been shown to increase the body’s sensitivity to insulin5 and muscles will use up glucose in the bloodstream whether insulin is available or not5.
Be careful though! Managing blood sugar is a balancing act. If the blood glucose gets too low through too much activity, not eating enough, or over medicating with insulin, it can bring blood glucose levels dangerously low. A normal range for a fasting blood glucose is between 70-100 mg/dL6.
If diet and exercise are not enough to maintain normal blood glucose levels, medications will need to be utilized to help maintain normal levels. Medications are commonly taken either orally or injected subcutaneously (fat tissue) to help manage blood glucose levels. New technology can help manage blood glucose levels with minimal intervention. This technology acts as the pancreas and can regulate blood glucose levels in the body and inject insulin into the body when it is too high. Regardless of technology, it is crucial that anybody with diabetes and those around them are well versed in the management of diabetes.
If you think you might have any form of diabetes you should contact your primary physician. Never try to treat diabetes without proper supervision from your healthcare provider.