Diabetes mellitus is a group of diseases that share a common characteristic:
high levels of blood glucose.
Feeling tired or ill
Sudden weight loss
Slow healing of infections
Diabetes happens when the body cannot produce enough insulin or when the
insulin that is produced in the pancreas cannot work adequately. When diabetes
is not well controlled, it can cause serious complications and premature death.
However, the good news is that you can control diabetes, and we are here to help
What is insulin?
Insulin is a hormone secreted by your pancreas and its function is to
regulate blood glucose levels. Insulin works like a key to open the door of the
cells so glucose Ė the fuel you get from food - can come inside and be converted
Think of a corridor full of doors. You need a key to unlock each door so you
can put glucose in each room. Well, insulin is that key and if it is not
produced in the right amounts or if it cannot open the doors because it is
cracked, then glucose builds up in the blood causing your blood sugar to go up.
This is called hyperglycemia (high levels of blood glucose) and is the common
manifestation of diabetes.
What are the symptoms?
Why do these symptoms appear when blood glucose is high?
When you have hyperglycemia, insulin is not opening the doors of the cells
and glucose cannot enter the cells to be converted into energy. Your body then
detects that the levels of blood glucose are too high and since high glucose can
be very toxic, your body tries to get rid of the extra glucose through your
kidneys, which are the filters for your blood.
The kidneys, then pour as much glucose as possible into your urine, causing
you to urinate more frequently and thus lose a lot of fluids. This makes you
Now, when your blood glucose levels are high due to your glucose not entering
the cells to be used for energy, the lack of fuel makes you feel hungry and
So, since your body canít get energy from the food you eat, you might also
start losing weight.
The blurred vision, the slow healing of infections and other symptoms like
dry skin and genital itching, are all consequences of the high levels of glucose
in the blood.
Types of diabetes
Type 1 diabetes
Type 1 diabetes was previously called insulin dependent diabetes mellitus or
juvenile diabetes. Type 1 diabetes develops quickly, usually over a few weeks,
and symptoms are normally very obvious. Type 1 diabetes happens when the immune
system of the person, usually a child, destroys the beta cells in the pancreas,
which are responsible for making insulin. This form of diabetes usually affects
children and young adults. Type 1 diabetes is believed to account for 5% to 10%
of all diagnosed cases of diabetes. Risk factors for type 1 diabetes may include
autoimmune, genetic, and environmental factors.
Type 2 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes was previously called non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus
(NIDDM) or adult-onset diabetes. It develops slowly and the symptoms are usually
less severe than in people with type 1 diabetes. Some people may not notice any
symptoms at all and are only diagnosed after a routine medical check up.
Type 2 diabetes affects about 90% to 95% of all diagnosed people with
diabetes. It usually begins as insulin resistance, a disorder in which the cells
do not use insulin properly. There is a state of hyperinsulinemia, that is a
high production of insulin to keep blood glucose levels controlled. But insulin
cannot work correctly on the surface of the cells to allow glucose to enter and
be used or stored. This causes high blood glucose levels. Type 2 diabetes is
associated with older age, obesity, family history of diabetes, history of
gestational diabetes, physical inactivity, and race/ethnicity. African
Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians, and some Asian Americans
and Native Hawaiians or Other Pacific Islanders are at high risk. Type 2
diabetes is increasingly being diagnosed in children and adolescents due to the
obesity epidemic we experience today.
Gestational diabetes develops when a woman is diagnosed with diabetes during
pregnancy. Gestational diabetes develops more frequently among African
Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, and American Indians. It is also more
common among obese women and women with a family history of diabetes. Pregnant
women with diabetes must control their blood glucose levels well to avoid
complications with the baby. Several studies have reported that after pregnancy,
5% to 10% of women with gestational diabetes are found to have type 2 diabetes.
In addition, women who have had gestational diabetes have a 20% to 50% chance of
developing diabetes in the next 5-10 years.