What is Diabetes?

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Diabetes mellitus is one of the most common diagnoses in the world and it affects millions of people every year. Diabetes is referred to as a "disease of lifestyle" because it is essentially our lifestyle disorders that make this disease flourish.

Diabetes is a disorder of blood sugar metabolism, which results in abnormally high levels of the simple sugar, glucose, in the blood stream. Glucose itself is what causes the complications associated with diabetes.

All food that we eat gets broken down in our digestive system and enters put blood stream. Foods that turn to glucose quickly- like carbohydrate foods, will have a more immediate affect on blood sugar. A hormone called insulin, which is produced by the beta cells of the pancreas, is responsible for shuttling glucose out of the bloodstream and into the cells, where it is burned for energy. With diabetes, either insulin production or function is low, which means that blood sugar remains high.

The initial symptoms of high blood glucose are rather vague, so most people won’t even know that they have diabetes. Symptoms include:

· Unexplained weight loss or weight gain

· Increased urination

· Excessive hunger and thirst

· Blurred vision

· Fatigue

Diabetes mellitus is generally divided into two categories: type I, called insulin-dependant diabetes (IDDM) and type II called non insulin-dependant diabetes (NIDDM).

With Type I diabetes there is a destruction of the pancreatic cells that manufacture insulin. In this case, daily insulin injections are required for survival. Type I diabetes is an auto-immune disorder whose causes are largely unknown. Type I diabetes can result in deadly high blood sugar (hyperglycemic) if left untreated.

Type II diabetes usually occurs later in life, although younger people are getting this type of diabetes too. With Type II’s, insulin is usually still being produced, but its function at the cellular level is reduced. This is often reffered to as Insulin Resistance. It is more related to lifestyle than Type I diabetes.

Consistently high blood glucose levels produce complications over time. Glucose can damage the retina of the eye leading to blindness. Glucose damages blood vessels making them more susceptible to the harmful effects of cholesterol. Damage to the kidney can result in kidney disease and ultimately kidney failure. Bladder dysfunction, sexual dysfunction and digestive problems can also result.

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