Diabetes: The Definitive Guide And A Comprehensive Overview of the Disease

According to the American Diabetes Association, an estimated 33.1 million Americans—or roughly 1 in every 20 individuals—have diabetes right now. An alarming number of these people don’t even know they have the condition, which is why it’s so important to understand the risks and complications of diabetes.

If you’re reading this article, there’s a good chance you’ve been recently diagnosed or are concerned about developing type 2 diabetes.

While this guide isn’t enough to fully understand all the ins and outs of this life-altering disease, it does serve as a fantastic starting point for learning about everything from its causes and risk factors to treatment methods and prevention strategies.

Keep reading to learn more about this dangerous illness.

What Is Diabetes?

Let’s start with the basics. Diabetes is a metabolic disorder in which your blood sugar (also known as blood glucose) levels are too high.

This increase in blood sugar is caused by either an inability to produce enough insulin (known as type 1 diabetes) or an inability to properly use the insulin you produce (known as type 2 diabetes).

When blood sugar is too high, it damages your body’s tissues and organs.

Over time, diabetes can even lead to life-threatening complications such as kidney failure, heart disease, and stroke.

Understanding More About Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes—a condition characterized by insufficient insulin production in the pancreas—is a disease that many people associate with childhood.

However, adults also contract the condition, and it’s one of the most common types of diabetes, affecting nearly 5 million Americans.

Fewer than 10% of individuals with type 1 diabetes are diagnosed before the age of 30, and the average onset for adults is between the ages of 40 and 60.

Type 1 is not only more common than type 2 diabetes among adults, but it’s also typically more severe and requires more serious treatment.

As mentioned above, the pancreas is responsible for producing insulin, a hormone responsible for regulating blood sugar levels.

In the case of type 1 diabetes, either the pancreas stops producing insulin altogether, or it becomes unable to produce enough to regulate blood sugar levels.

Understanding More About 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes, or insulin resistance, is a metabolic disorder characterized by an inability to use insulin properly.

This type of diabetes typically develops gradually, and it’s more common among adults over the age of 40.

Typically, type 2 diabetes is treated with a combination of diet, exercise, and oral medication. However, some people with type 2 diabetes require insulin therapy to control their blood sugar levels properly.

For the more than 1 in 4 people with diabetes who don’t know they have the condition, type 2 diabetes can be especially dangerous.

There are some early signs of the disease, including frequent urination and extreme thirst. However, these signs are often easy to misidentify as something else, and many people ignore them.

Because type 2 diabetes often develops gradually, people may not even realize they have the condition until serious complications have already developed. This is why it’s important to be aware of the risk factors and seek treatment as soon as possible.

Risk Factors

If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, there are certain risk factors you should be aware of. 

The risk of developing diabetes is largely dependent on your genetics and lifestyle. Factors that increase your risk of diabetes include:

1. Age

As mentioned above, type 2 diabetes is typically diagnosed in people over the age of 40. If you’re over 45 and have a family history of diabetes, you’re also at a higher risk. Family history – If you have a parent or sibling who has diabetes, you’re more likely to develop the disease yourself. If two or more family members have diabetes, your risk increases even more. 

2. Race

People of South Asian, Pacific Islander, African-American, Latino, and Native American descent are at higher risk of developing diabetes. – 

3. Weight

Obesity, and diabetes are closely linked. In fact, 85% of people with type 2 diabetes are either overweight or obese. If you’re overweight, losing just 10% of your body weight can reduce your risk of developing diabetes by as much as 58%.

4. High Blood Pressure or Blood Sugar Level

Having one or both conditions put you at risk of developing diabetes.

Signs and Symptoms of Diabetes

The symptoms of diabetes can vary widely based on the type of the condition. Here are some of the most common signs of type 1 and type 2 diabetes:

  1. Frequent urination: The kidneys may begin to filter excess glucose out of your bloodstream, which results in more urination.
  2. Extreme thirst: Diabetes can cause dehydration and a buildup of glucose in the blood, which leads to frequent urination and an increased urge to drink.
  3. Fatigue: Excess glucose in the bloodstream can create oxidative stress and reduce the oxygen flow.
  4. Frequent infection: Diabetes can cause a drop in your immune system and a buildup of glucose in the bloodstream, which promotes infection and makes you more susceptible to illness.
  5. Blurry vision: High blood glucose levels can create glucose buildup in your retina, causing blurred vision.
  6. Weight loss: Excess glucose in the bloodstream can be stored in fat cells, making you lose weight. Over time, this can cause organ failure.
  7. High blood pressure: High blood pressure is one of the earliest signs of diabetes.

Complications of Diabetes

If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, it is important to learn about the complications that may arise and how you can prevent them.

There are a number of complications that can arise from diabetes, including heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease. You can avoid these complications with the proper diabetes management. 

  1. Risk of infection: If left untreated, diabetes can cause significant damage to your blood vessels, compromising your immune system and increasing your risk of infection.
  2. Heart disease: Diabetes can lead to cardiovascular disease, which is the leading cause of death among people with diabetes.
  3. Kidney disease: Over time, diabetes can damage your kidneys, leading to problems with fluid balance and a buildup of waste products in your system.
  4. Retinal damage: Diabetes can cause retinal damage and lead to blindness.
  5. Amputation: High blood sugar levels can cause nerve damage and tissue damage in your extremities.

Treatment Options and How to Manage Diabetes

There are different treatment options for type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Treatment will vary from person to person and can include a combination of medication and lifestyle changes.

Self-management of diabetes is crucial for long-term health. Here are some of the best ways to manage diabetes:

  1. Exercise regularly: Regular exercise can help improve blood glucose levels, lower blood pressure, and decrease the risk of weight gain.
  2. Eat healthily: A healthy diet rich in fiber can help lower blood glucose levels, while a diet high in saturated fat and refined carbs can raise glucose levels.
  3. Manage stress: Stress can trigger a rise in blood glucose levels, so managing your stress level is important.
  4. Take medication as prescribed: It’s important to take all prescribed medications, even if your blood glucose levels seem to be normal.
  5. Avoid pregnancy: Pregnancy can cause blood glucose levels to rise, so it’s especially important for women with diabetes to monitor their glucose levels during this time closely.

Prevention Strategies for Diabetes

Preventing type 1 diabetes is impossible, but you can prevent type 2 diabetes through lifestyle modifications.

Remember, diabetes is a progressive disease that worsens over time, so the sooner you catch it, the easier it is to treat.

Some ways to prevent diabetes include:

  • Maintain a healthy weight: Excess weight can increase your risk of developing diabetes, so try to maintain a healthy weight.
  • Get plenty of exercises: Regular exercise can help lower blood glucose levels and reduce the risk of developing diabetes.
  • Eat a healthy diet: A healthy diet rich in fiber and low in saturated fats can help lower blood glucose levels.

Final Words

Diabetes is a serious disease that can lead to various serious health complications if left untreated. The risk of developing diabetes largely depends on your genetics and lifestyle choices.

While there is no cure for diabetes, there are treatment options that can help manage the condition and prevent serious complications.

With the right information, you can prevent or manage the onset of this dangerous disease. You can also take steps to prevent diabetes by maintaining a healthy weight, getting plenty of exercises, and eating a healthy diet.

Rhinebeck Health