According to the American Diabetes Association, as of 2018, nearly 34.2 million Americans have diabetes mellitus. Of those, 1.6 million have type 1 diabetes, with type 2 being the predominant presentation.
Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus (T1DM)
This form of the disease is due to decreased insulin secretion by the pancreas. The cause and mechanism that causes this lack of insulin are unknown. It may be due to autoimmune or environmental factors, such as an infection.
Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus (T2DM)
This form is primarily due to insulin resistance, where the body is unable to use insulin properly. T2DM causes 80% of diabetes cases worldwide. At least some cases of this type of the disease result from obesity or lack of physical activity and exercise. Type 2 diabetes is often known as adult-onset or noninsulin-dependent diabetes.
There is also another type of diabetes named gestational diabetes, which occurs during pregnancy. Diagnosis is usually via a glucose intolerance test administered as a routine part of prenatal care.
Gestational diabetes can produce short- and long-term risks for both mother and baby. It is most common to face complications during delivery, such as needing an emergency cesarean section or having trouble delivering a large baby. Many times, this condition resolves spontaneously following birth. However, women who have experienced this condition should continue to monitor for the development of high blood sugar later in life.
The Importance of Care
People with any of the above types of diabetes have high glucose levels in their bodily fluids. This is from carbohydrates in foods that the body cannot metabolize due to lack of or intolerance to insulin. This increased sugar can be harmful to many body systems and puts you at a higher risk of developing many health issues, including:
- Cardiovascular disease
- High blood pressure
- Low blood sugar levels
- Kidney disease or kidney failure
- Diabetic retinopathy and blindness
- Nerve damage in the limbs can cause pain, sores, or gangrene
- Skin breakdown, with an increased risk for infection
Given these potentially serious complications, type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes require appropriate care.
Pathophysiology and Risk Factors
Diabetes occurs from inadequate insulin production by the pancreas or deficiency in insulin processing. In the latter case, insulin resistance may begin years before diabetes develops. Often, it is present before the onset of any symptoms of hyperglycemia.
Risk factors include:
- A family history of high or irregular blood sugar
- Age (over 45 years old)
- Obesity or weight gain
- Lack of physical activity and exercise
- Race/ethnic background (African-American, Native American, Asian American/Pacific Islander, Latino, and multi-racial individuals have increased risk)
- A history of gestational diabetes for women
If you have one or more of these risk factors, you may want to monitor your blood sugar and watch for any signs or symptoms of diabetes.