Diabetes is an exceedingly common condition in the United States. In fact, studies suggest that as many as eight percent of the American population suffer from this chronic disease [http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/diabetes-statistics/], which is caused by the body’s inability to effectively use and regulate glucose in the blood. There are two main types of this condition: type 1 and type 2. Type 1 develops in early childhood or adolescence, while type 2 is more common and typically occurs in individuals in their 40’s and 50’s. Both types of this disease are chronic, often debilitating and, in most cases, require daily medications. Treatments for both types include diet, exercise and the ingestion of drugs that regulate blood glucose levels.
The following guide is an in-depth look at this disease. Included is information regarding causes, symptoms and risk factors associated with this condition, as well as facts and tips regarding treatment and prevention.
Type 1 diabetics are diagnosed early in life. In type 1 cases, the disease usually develops rather quickly and is the result of a faulty immune system. In individuals with this condition, the immune system begins to attack itself instead of outside threats like viruses and bacteria. The body’s response to this attack is blood glucose that rises far above normal levels.
In many cases, the second type of this disease is preventable. Although family history and other factors may lead to irregularities in blood glucose, lifestyle choices are often to blame as well. Certain choices and behaviors that cause hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar, include a diet high in sugars and starches, obesity and inactivity.
There are often no risk factors present in individuals with type 1 diabetes. Patients with type 2 typically exhibit risk factors like the following:
Diabetes may produce no symptoms at all, but often causes symptoms like the following:
Diabetes risks include those that develop as a result of high or fluctuating blood sugar levels. A few of those risks include the following:
Heart and Vascular Disease
Heart problems are primary diabetes risks. Irregular blood sugar can increase a person’s risk of dying from a stroke or heart attack by up to four times. Damage to heart by high blood sugar includes narrowing of the arteries, high blood pressure and damage to arteries and blood vessels [http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/type-2-diabetes/DS00585/DSECTION=complications].
The damage done to vessels and arteries can harm the nerves and lead to neuropathy. This produces symptoms like tingling, numbness, pain and discomfort, and can often lead to immobility and the need for amputations. For this reason, diabetic patients must take special precaution when it comes to circulation and foot care. Compression socks and hosiery can be helpful, as can topical creams and ointments.
Kidney damage and organ failure are major diabetes risks. In fact, diabetes-induced kidney problems are a leading cause of kidney failure in the United States [http://my.clevelandclinic.org/disorders/diabetes/np_overview.aspx]. Diabetic patients often have to undergo regular dialysis treatments and, in severe cases, may have to receive kidney transplants.
Blood vessel damage can affect the eyes as well as the kidneys, skin and other organs. This damage can result in poor vision, cataracts, glaucoma and even blindness. To protect eye health, diabetics should receive regular eye exams and attempt to keep blood glucose at manageable levels through diet and medication.
Diabetics are at an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. This could be due to artery damage, which restricts blood flow to the brain.
There are a variety of treatment available to both type 1 and type 2 diabetics. One of the most important aspects of treatment includes regular monitoring of blood glucose levels. Patients usually take their own blood sample and test glucose through the use of a monitoring device.
Diet is also important in maintaining healthy blood sugar levels. Diabetics are recommended to decrease their intake of sugars and starches while increasing their intake of vitamins and minerals. Physical activity is important as well, as it helps patients keep heir body weight at BMI at normal levels. In some cases, proper diet and regular exercise can prevent the need for medications.
Insulin is often administered to diabetic patients. This drug, which can be injected or taken orally, helps the body regulate blood glucose. Some patients require daily medications, while others only need insulin occasionally.
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