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Common Conditions

Diabetes

Diabetes is a chronic disease caused by excess sugar, or glucose, in the bloodstream.  The pancreas produces a hormone called insulin to control the amount of sugar in the bloodstream.  In individuals with diabetes, the body either does not produce enough insulin or cannot use insulin well, causing sugar to build up in the bloodstream.  Diabetes can be classified as type I, type II, or gestational.  In type I diabetes, the body does not produce enough insulin.  In type II diabetes, the body cannot produce enough insulin or use insulin well enough.  Type II diabetes is the most common type.  Gestational diabetes is simply diabetes during pregnancy.  Diabetes can cause damage to the eyes, kidneys, and nerves and can also put an individual at greater risk for heart disease or stroke.  Individuals can also be diagnosed with prediabetes, meaning that their blood sugar is not high enough to be classified as diabetes but that they have an increased risk of developing type II diabetes. Individuals with diabetes have a difficult time healing from wounds and have a suppressed immune system. 

Cause

Diabetes is caused when the pancreas cannot produce enough insulin or the body cannot use insulin well enough to regulate blood sugar levels appropriately. Risk factors for diabetes include obesity, family history of diabetes, being older than age 45, cholesterol imbalances, hypertension, prediabetes, history of gestational diabetes, history of heart disease or stroke, history of depression, history of polycystic ovary syndrome, lack of exercise, smoking, history of acanthosis nigricans, or pancreatic injury.

Symptoms

Symptoms of type I diabetes usually appear in children but can appear at any stage of life. Type II diabetes typically appears later in life (but can appear at any time) and is especially prevalent in individuals over the age of 40. Symptoms include:

  • Increased Thirst

  • Frequent Urination

  • Fatigue

  • Weight loss

  • Extreme Hunger

  • Blurred Vision

  • Irritability

  • Ketones in the urine

  • Frequent infections

  • Slow healing sores

  • Numbness/tingling in the hands or feet

  • Dry skin

  • Nausea (type I)

  • Vomiting (type I)

  • Abdominal pain (type I)

Treatment

Diabetes can be treated to a diabetic meal plan, regular exercise, and oral medication prescribed by a healthcare professional.  Some individuals require insulin to control blood sugar, especially those with type I diabetes.  Doctors may also recommend continuous blood sugar monitoring.  Normal blood sugar levels are between 80 and 130 mg/dL in the fasting state and less than 180 mg/dL 2 hours after a meal.  To treat diabetes, it is always helpful to control blood pressure and cholesterol levels and to quit smoking and/or tobacco use.

Prevention

To help prevent diabetes, one should maintain a healthy weight, eat a healthy diet with less fats and sugars and more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, exercise regularly, avoid smoking, limit alcohol intake, lower stress, get adequate sleep, control other health problems, and see a doctor regularly.

Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, June 11). What is diabetes? https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/diabetes.html

Cleveland Clinic. (2021, March 28). Diabetes: An overview. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/7104-diabetes-mellitus-an-overview#symptoms-and-causes

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2020, October 30). Diabetes. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetes/symptoms-causes/syc-20371444

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. (2016, December). What is Diabetes? National Institutes of Health. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/what-is-diabetes

U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2021, January 2). Diabetes. MedlinePlus. https://medlineplus.gov/diabetes.html#:~:text=Diabetes%20is%20a%20disease%20in,body%20does%20not%20make%20insulin

World Health Organization. (2021, April 13). Diabetes. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/diabetes.