What is Diabetes?

pancreasDiabetes is a disease where your body either doesn’t make or can’t use insulin properly. Insulin is a hormone that is needed to turn the food we eat into energy. There are two types of diabetes. Type 1 most often happens in children or young adults. Type 2 is the most common and usually occurs in adults. More than 17 million American have diabetes, but almost six million don’t know they have it.

The two different types of diabetes:

Type I, or insulin-dependent diabetes, often begins in childhood and is also called juvenile diabetes. A type I diabetic's body produces little to no insulin. Insulin-dependent diabetics must inject themselves daily with insulin, typically two or three times a day.
Type II, or noninsulin-dependent diabetes, often occurs in older adults, and is also called maturity-onset diabetes. A type II diabetic's body produces some insulin; however, the quantity is insufficient for the body's needs.

Insulin’s job: -- Insulin and glucagon are made by the islet cells of the pancreas. The islet cells are made up of both alpha and beta cells. The alpha cells make glucagon and the beta cells make insulin. Insulin acts as the “key that opens up the door” to the inside of our cells. It helps good glucose to be able to enter the cells of your body via the cell membrane.

The pancreas is a sponge-like organ that lies deep in our upper abdomen, behind the stomach and intestines. (that is a drawing of it above). The pancreas actually has two different jobs in our body. One is to help our intestines digest food by secreting digestive enzymes. This function is called exocrine function and is not affected by diabetes mellitus. The endocrine function of the pancreas is involved in diabetes mellitus.

If You Are Diabetic

blood test All diabetics must closely monitor their diet and exercise. They must check their blood sugar level regularly, usually three or four times a day, by testing their blood on a test strip with a smart little device. They should keep their blood sugar level between 70 and 130, and adjust their shots and eating habits accordingly. Diabetics typically are allowed no sugar in their diets except to counteract a low blood sugar reaction. Life becomes very structured around mealtimes, and the lifestyle can be very stressful, especially for parents caring for children or teenagers who have this condition. However, diabetics can and do live normal, productive lives. As long as they monitor their blood glucose levels, take the appropriate injections and eat at the correct times, diabetics are just like anyone else. In addition, diabetics should take good care of their feet and eyes.

Two of the most common complications resulting from this condition are feet having to be amputated and vision problems as severe as blindness. These complications are due to circulatory problems. Kidney problems are also quite common, and many diabetics go on dialysis as they get older and their kidneys start to fail. Taking good care of yourself, keeping your blood glucose levels under control, exercising regularly and visiting your health care provider and an endocrinologist often will help ensure that your diabetes causes few complications later in life.

Diabetic ketoacidosis can occur in Type I diabetics when their blood sugar becomes elevated. There is such stress on the body that the muscles break down to form glucose and ketones. This condition is a medical emergency.

Hyperosmolar coma is a complication of Type II diabetes, which is characterized by severe dehydration. This is also an emergency medical condition!

Signs That You May Have Diabetes

You are very tired and you are always very thirsty, no matter how much fluid you drink. You may pee a lot! Here are more symptoms...

Symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes:
Frequent urination, weight loss, and fatigue. Frequent urination is a common symptom of diabetes. Many parents suspect something is wrong with their child when they are urinating often, especially if they begin to wet the bed after having been toilet-trained. However, many parents expect that their child should be urinating often because they are drinking a lot. 'Drinking a lot', however, is another common sign of diabetes. In addition, children will often lose weight, despite the fact that they are eating much more than usual. Fatigue is also a common complaint from those with type 1 diabetes.

Dehydration -- If these symptoms go unrecognized, as they often do in the summertime when it is expected for children to drink more and perhaps lose weight secondary to increased activity, children become increasingly dehydrated. Their body also relies on the production of ketones to provide energy.

Ketone Build-Up -- The build up of ketones leads to nausea and vomiting, which accelerates dehydration. Young children are often quite ill and dehydrated at diagnosis for several reasons. First, they get dehydrated more quickly. It is also expected that young children will urinate overnight and frequent urination and overnight urination may not be recognized. Finally, young children are often not capable of providing their own drinks, and thus, they may become more rapidly dehydrated because they cannot replace lost fluids by drinking at will.

Yeast infections and diaper rashes -- Some patients are diagnosed at a routine check up, especially a child has not gained weight appropriately. In addition, high blood sugar levels make patients more likely to develop yeast infections. Some people have had persistent diaper rashes or vaginal yeast infections prior to diagnosis.

If you think you or your child may have diabetes, ask your health care provider to test blood glucose level and inform him or her that you are concerned about possibly being diabetic. Have your blood glucose level tested as soon as possible, because if you are diabetic and your blood glucose level can become high very quickly when you are young and that can be very dangerous, it can even lead to coma.

Strength Training May Lower Diabetes Risk in Teens: Overweight or obese adolescents may lower their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by doing strength training exercises. A little exercise may help.

Resources on Diabetes on the internet:

* National Organizations Juvenile Diabetes Foundation
* American Diabetes Association
* Joslin Diabetes Center


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