Diabetes

What Is Diabetes Mellitus?

Diabetes Mellitus, commonly referred to as “diabetes,” is a multifaceted medical condition that revolves around the intricate regulation of blood sugar, scientifically known as glucose. This metabolic disorder is rooted in the intricate interplay between the body’s internal chemistry and its ability to control glucose levels. Diabetes manifests when this balance is disrupted, primarily due to two main factors: a deficiency in insulin production and/or a resistance to the actions of insulin. The hormone insulin, a vital player in this biological drama, is crafted within the pancreas.

What Are The Causes Of Diabetes?

There are multiple types of diabetes mellitus, but two primary types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. Type 1 is an autoimmune disease. Individuals with type 1 diabetes do not produce any insulin due to an ongoing autoimmune attack against the pancreas. Although often diagnosed in childhood, type 1 diabetes can be diagnosed in adults, too. Type 2 diabetes is a disease primarily of insulin resistance, which leads to insulin deficiency over time. It is usually diagnosed in adulthood.

What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Diabetes?

Common diabetic symptoms include dizziness, frequent urination and/or urinary tract infections, other infections, increased thirst, blurry vision, extreme fatigue, unexplained weight loss, and wounds that will not heal or heal very slowly. If diabetes is allowed to progress it can affect other organs including the nervous system, the heart, the blood vessels, the kidneys, and the eyes.

Gestational diabetes develops in women during pregnancy as a result of hormonal imbalances in the endocrine system. Certain hormones that are on the rise during pregnancy, including cortisol, estrogen, and human placental lactogen, all interfere with the body’s ability to properly control your blood sugar. When the pancreas fails to adapt to these hormonal shifts, blood sugar levels rise, resulting in gestational diabetes.

What Are The Risk Factors Of Diabetes?

Type 1: Your genetics and family history of type 1 diabetes are risk factors for developing the disease.

Type 2: Your genetics and family history of type 2 diabetes, overweight or obesity, age greater than 45, family history of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, sedentary lifestyle, and a history of heart disease or stroke.

How Is Diabetes Mellitus Diagnosed?

Diabetes can be diagnosed in several ways: either by a random blood sugar >200 mg/dL ideally with symptoms, a fasting blood sugar > 125 mg/dL, a Hemoglobin A1c of 6.5% or higher, or by a 2-hour oral glucose tolerance test > 200 mg/dL. Hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) is a blood test that indicates a person’s average blood sugar in the prior 3 months.

What Are The Possible Treatments For Diabetes Mellitus?

First and foremost, diabetes is treated with lifestyle modifications consisting of controlled carbohydrate intake and increased protein and fiber consumption. In addition to that, we recommend a regular exercise program that includes both cardiovascular exercises and resistance training to each person’s unique ability. Weight management and stress reduction are also often critical for diabetes control. When lifestyle modification techniques are no longer adequate to control blood sugars, medication is added.

Our team develops an individualized treatment plan for each patient based on the type of diabetes he/she has, the severity of the disease, the patient’s goals for treatment, and other co-morbidities he/she may have that affect choice of therapy. Medication options include oral medications, injectables, and insulin, and each regimen is customized to the patient’s needs.

Are There Preventative Steps Or Measures To Avoid Diabetes?

There is no way to prevent type 1 diabetes. However, there are several ways to reduce your risk for Type 2 diabetes. These include maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, abstaining from smoking, eating a well-balanced diet, maintaining a healthy blood pressure, and seeing your healthcare provider regularly for check-ups.

 

Routine Diabetes Care Includes:

  • Yearly complete foot exam
  • Yearly dilated eye exam
  • Blood pressure and cholesterol management/evaluation
  • Flu and pneumonia vaccines
  • Reviewing routine laboratory tests and glucose levels

What Are The Risks If Diabetes Is Left Untreated?

Having high blood sugar leads to serious and sometimes life-threatening complications over time. In the short-term, poorly controlled diabetes causes increased risk of infection, poor wound healing, and fatigue. In the long-term, poorly controlled diabetes can lead to serious complications including blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks, strokes, nerve damage, and limb amputations.

Are There Other Related Conditions To Diabetes Mellitus?

Diabetes often coexists with other health conditions, creating a complex healthcare landscape. High blood pressure, overweight or obesity, elevated cholesterol levels, chronic kidney disease, and cardiovascular disease are some of the most prevalent conditions intertwined with diabetes.

Key Takeaways

  • Diabetes mellitus (often called just “diabetes”) is a medical condition characterized by high blood sugar/glucose.
  • Diabetes is caused by a deficiency of and/or a resistance to the hormone insulin, which is produced in the pancreas.
  • Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease. Individuals with type 1 diabetes do not produce any insulin due to an ongoing autoimmune attack against their pancreas, where insulin is made. Although often diagnosed in childhood, type 1 diabetes can occur in adults, too.
  • Type 2 diabetes is a disease of insulin resistance, which can lead to insulin deficiency over time. It is usually diagnosed in adulthood.
  • Type 1 diabetes is treated with insulin, whereas Type 2 diabetes may be treated with lifestyle modifications, oral or injectable medications, insulin, or a combination of oral medications, injectable medications and insulin.
  • Over time, poorly controlled diabetes leads to serious and sometimes life-threatening complications.

Meet Endocrinology Consultants

Dr. Qureshi completed her medical education at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. Upon graduation, she received the Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award for clinical excellence and compassionate care. She subsequently pursued a fellowship in Endocrinology at Montefiore-Albert Einstein College of Medicine. There, she conducted... Learn More »

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