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What Is Diabetes: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

What Is Diabetes: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Apria Editorial |

You probably know someone who has diabetes. It might be a friend, a family member, or even yourself. Since the best approach to prevent or manage any detrimental health problem is awareness, ApriaHome presents this ultimate guide to help you stay informed. This article covers the causes, symptoms, treatments, and more of type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, and gestational diabetes.

The discovery of insulin took place 100 years ago. Before that, diabetics did not live long lives. Since then, we've come a long way in terms of minimizing the toll diabetes has on people's everyday lives.

But the battle isn't over. Diabetes is now more prevalent than ever, affecting 34.2 million persons of all ages in the United States, accounting for almost one-tenth of the population. About 7.3 million persons aged 18 and older have diabetes, and 1 in 5 remain undiagnosed. Diabetes is increasingly impacting people as they age, affecting more than 26% of people aged 65 and older, about 1 in 4.

The quicker we can spread awareness about this condition, the better Americans will be able to understand, prevent, postpone, or mitigate its adverse consequences.

Types Of Diabetes

What is diabetes? Diabetes is a complex disease that may manifest itself in a variety of ways. Aside from the more prevalent varieties of diabetes ‒ type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes ‒ there are a few less common but just as important variants.

What Is Type 1 Diabetes?

A chronic and long-term condition in which the pancreas generates limited or no insulin.

This is an autoimmune condition, which means that your body attacks itself. In this situation, the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas are destroyed. Type 1 diabetes affects up to 10% of diabetics. It is frequently diagnosed in adolescence but can develop at any age.

People with Type 1 diabetes must take insulin every day as part of a long-term management plan. This is why it is also known as insulin-dependent diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes is a genetic disorder that often manifests in childhood, whereas type 2 diabetes is connected to lifestyle choices and typically appears in adulthood.

What Is Type 2 Diabetes?

A chronic but reversible condition that affects how the body regulates blood sugar.

Type 2 occurs when the body either does not produce enough insulin or when the cells do not respond properly to insulin. This is the most prevalent kind of diabetes, affecting up to 95% of diabetics. It is commonly diagnosed in middle-aged and elderly patients. Type 2 diabetes is also known as adult-onset diabetes and insulin-resistant diabetes.

Symptoms for type 1 and type 2 generally include a dry mouth, frequent urination, increased hunger & thirst, fatigue, and blurred vision. However, some patients with type 2 diabetes report being asymptomatic as well.

Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes is a form of elevated blood sugar that affects pregnant women. Some women experience gestational diabetes throughout their pregnancy. Gestational diabetes generally disappears after the pregnancy term has ended. However, patients who develop gestational diabetes are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life.

Like other forms of diabetes, gestational diabetes affects how the cells metabolize sugar (glucose). Gestational diabetes produces elevated blood sugar levels, which may have an impact on the health of both mother and child.

In most instances, there are no symptoms, but symptoms commonly include:

  • Excessive appetite and thirst
  • Fatigue
  • Yeast infections
  • Frequent urination

    A blood sugar test is performed during pregnancy to diagnose.

    Other Types Of Diabetes

    Pre-diabetes

    A condition with high blood sugar levels, but not high enough to be classified as type 2 diabetes.

    Maturity-onset diabetes of the young (MODY)

    This refers to a range of disorders marked by unusually high blood sugar levels. These types of diabetes usually appear before the age of 30; however, they might appear later in life.

    Neonatal Diabetes Mellitus

    Permanent neonatal diabetes mellitus is a variant of diabetes that develops during the first six months of life and persists throughout the patient's lifespan. It is caused by a single gene mutation.

    Wolfram Syndrome

    Also known as DIDMOAD, it is a genetic illness characterized by diabetes insipidus (DI), childhood-onset diabetes mellitus (DM), and a progressive loss of eyesight due to optic atrophy (OA), and hearing loss/deafness (D).

    Alström Syndrome

    Distinguished by progressive blindness and deafness, this syndrome is a type of heart disease that enlarges and weakens the heart muscle (dilated cardiomyopathy) and causes obesity, type 2 diabetes, and short stature.

    Latent Autoimmune Diabetes In Adults (LADA)

    A type of autoimmune diabetes that progresses slowly. Like type 1 diabetes, LADA develops when your pancreas stops producing enough insulin.

    Type 3c Diabetes (or Pancreatogenic Diabetes)

    Develops when the pancreas stops producing enough insulin. This often occurs after significant damage to the pancreas has occurred.

    Steroid-Induced Diabetes Mellitus

    Categorized as an abnormal rise in blood glucose caused by glucocorticoid (glucose-cortex-steroids) usage in a patient with or without a history of diabetes mellitus.

    Cystic Fibrosis Diabetes

    Although those diagnosed with cystic fibrosis could develop type 1 or 2 diabetes, cystic fibrosis diabetes is a separate condition prevalent among cystic fibrosis patients as an additional condition associated with CF.

    What Causes Diabetes?

    The root cause of diabetes, regardless of which type, is an accumulation of glucose circulating in your bloodstream. High blood glucose levels can be caused by several environmental and hereditary factors, although the underlying reason can vary widely amongst the different categories.

    Diabetes mellitus type 1 is an autoimmune disorder with several potential triggers. Your body's immune system targets and kills pancreatic beta cells, which produce insulin. High blood glucose levels result from a lack of insulin, which is needed for glucose to enter cells. In certain instances, type 1 diabetes can be brought on by genetics or a viral immune attack.

    Type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetes occur because the cells don't respond properly to insulin, so glucose can't enter them. Over time, insulin resistance develops, and the pancreas simply cannot produce enough insulin to overcome this resistance. This causes blood sugar levels to increase significantly.

    Understanding Diabetes Symptoms

    If you experience any of the diabetes symptoms listed below, see your doctor about having your blood sugar tested:

    • Frequent urination, especially at night
    • Excessive thirst and hunger
    • Blurred vision
    • Numb or tingling hands or feet
    • Fatigue, slow healing sores
    • Irritability or mood changes
    • An increased occurrence of viral infections, e.g. gum, skin, and vaginal infections
    • Presence of ketones in the urine
    • Foot ulcers

    Diabetes Treatment

    There are many treatments available to assist diabetics in managing and treating their condition. Because everyone is unique, each therapy will be tailored to a patient's specific requirements.

    For type 1 diabetes, daily insulin must be administered through injection or via a pump.

    For type 2 diabetes, insulin or pills are used to manage the condition. In addition, lifestyle and dietary changes, as well as an increase in physical exercise may also be prescribed.

    Insulin Administration

    Smaller capacity insulin syringes are usually used to administer a prescribed dosage of insulin into the fatty layer (subcutaneous layer) of the skin. Insulin can be injected using syringes and insulin pens. Some patients may be more comfortable using pens rather than syringes.

    Patients can be prescribed:

    • Small, medium, and large capacity syringes
    • Syringes with half unit markings or full unit markings
    • Disposable cartridge pens
    • Refillable cartridge pens

    The Insulin Pump

    A portable insulin pump is about the size of a smartphone. It allows short-acting or rapid-acting insulin to be administered on a per-hour basis.

    The patient can reconfigure the dosage if blood sugar levels have spiked or before a large meal.

    Insulin is administered by the pump via a tiny plastic tube semi-permanently inserted into the fatty layers of the skin (subcutaneous layer), most often in the abdomen or upper back.

    Monitoring & Management

    Because diabetes is often a long-term condition, the patient needs to adopt a few lifestyle changes to manage the condition.

    With type 2 diabetes, exercise, weight loss, and dietary changes can help reverse the condition. For type 1 diabetics, the condition is incurable but can be managed with:

    • Daily blood sugar monitoring
    • Lifestyle and dietary recommendations
    • Exercise
    • Insulin administration
    • Skin integrity and ulcer management
    • Awareness, education, and emotional support

    Your prescribing physician can tailor a management plan to suit your age, type of diabetes, and lifestyle requirements.

    Diabetes Risk Factors

    Type 2 diabetes has different risk factors than type 1 diabetes. Still, genetics are the most common risk factor. The likelihood of developing type 1 diabetes is increased by variables like environment and geographic location.

    Family members of persons with type 1 diabetes should be tested for the presence of diabetic immune system cells (autoantibodies). These can indicate an increased likelihood of developing diabetes.

    Type 1 diabetes risk factors include:

    • Having a type 1 diabetes family history
    • Pancreas dysfunction by infection, tumor, surgery, or accident
    • The presence of autoantibodies
    • Physical stress, e.g. surgery or serious illness
    • Viral disease exposure

    Risk factors for pre-diabetes, gestational, and type 2 diabetes:

    • Family history of pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes
    • Ethnicity, particular for African-American, Hispanic, Native American, Asian-American, or Pacific Islander patients
    • Being overweight or obese
    • Having unusually high blood pressure
    • Having low HDL cholestol and a high triglyceride level
    • Physically sedentary or inactive lifestyle
    • Being 45 years old or older
    • Polycystic ovarian syndrome
    • A family history of heart disease or stroke
    • Being a cigarette smoker
    • Impaired glucose tolerance

    Prevention & Management

    For those already diagnosed with diabetes type 1 and 2, pre-diabetes, or those who are at risk of developing diabetes, the following diabetic dietary recommendations must be followed.

    • Choose whole grains and whole grain products instead of refined grains or other highly processed carbohydrates
    • Avoid sugary beverages in exchange for water, coffee, or tea
    • Incorporate healthy fats
    • Minimize red meat, and avoid processed meat; instead, opt for nuts, legumes, whole grains, chicken, or fish
    • Choose smaller portions more frequently throughout the day in place of larger meals
    • Avoid saturated sugars
    • Make a habit of examining sugar content on labels

    Other preventative lifestyle changes include:

    • Excess weight loss
    • Regular blood sugar testing
    • Increased physical activity and exercise
    • Reduce or quit smoking
    • Light to moderate alcohol consumption
    • Increase water and fiber intake

    Diabetes is a lifestyle condition that can cause severe complications, including organ failure and even death if left untreated. For patients pre-disposed to diabetes, as well as those who have been diagnosed, awareness is your biggest asset.

    • Noticing subtle changes that indicate fluctuating sugar levels
    • Understanding the signs and symptoms associated with untreated diabetes
    • Making healthier lifestyle choices
    • Monitoring blood glucose level
    • Administering insulin manually

    All require increased patient awareness and education from online sources as well as the advice of a healthcare professional.

    Your One Stop Diabetic Supplies Solution

    If you've been diagnosed with diabetes or know of a loved one with an active diagnosis, you've come to the right place. Aside from raising awareness and offering ongoing support, ApriaHome also provides a one-stop solution for diabetes medications, monitoring, and diabetes treatment supplies.

    You can also visit our convenient and secure online portal for glucose meters, testing strips, and syringes, available for nationwide delivery.

    We are here to support you at every step of your health care journey; You can find guidance on insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid coverage with our Guide To Diabetic Supplies: What Is Covered By Medicare? [LINK] Or get in touch with one of our helpful agents who will be happy to assist.

    Looking for something specific? visit our online portal or Get in touch today! Email support@apria.com.

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