Most Americans have heard about diabetes, but still ask themselves, “what is diabetes?” They want to know what causes the condition, the steps to prevent it, and what it means for their future if they are diagnosed with it. Most of us know that diabetes left untreated can lead to serious complications and even death, but little else. We hear of people who have lost their vision, developed kidney disease and are now on dialysis, or have had their legs amputated due to diabetes. We recognize that we don’t want anything to do with the disease and its complications.
What Is Diabetes –America’s Silent Killer
So, what is diabetes? Diabetes comes in two types; type one (insulin dependent diabetes) and type two (non – insulin dependent diabetes). Type one is the rarer form, is typically diagnosed in children or young adults, and is defined by the body’s inability to produce insulin. It requires insulin administration via subcutaneous injections, and is fatal in all cases without treatment. Type one is considered to be an auto immune disorder meaning that it is caused by the body’s immune system attacking itself. Little can be done to prevent it. It simply shows up in otherwise healthy people. The farther we can stay away from it, the better off we are.
What Is Diabetes Type Two – The More Common Type
What is diabetes type two? It generally appears during middle to late adulthood, and is defined by the body’s inability to properly utilize insulin. Type two diabetics can produce insulin, but their cells are unable to efficient use it to process sugars. Non – insulin dependent diabetes is by far the more common type, affecting more than half of Americans over the age of 65. Its onset is often gradual – individuals can experience symptoms and go undiagnosed for several years. Type two diabetes typically does not require insulin administration during its earliest stages, but may require it as the disease advances. Lifestyle and diet change are generally the recommended course of action.
Common symptoms of early diabetes include thirst that cannot be quenched, frequent urination, extreme hunger that cannot be satisfied, mental status changes, blurry vision, lethargy, and fatigue. The body compensates for its inability to process sugar by converting fat to energy and ramping up production of urine. The body’s response to excess sugar in the blood is to produce more urine in the kidneys and alert the brain to drink more water.
In addition to asking, “what is diabetes?”, many people ask about the prognosis of those who suffer from it. The simple answer is that it depends on how well an individual manages his condition. If he takes it seriously, makes the recommended lifestyle changes and does everything within his power to keep his blood sugar levels in check, the odds are that he will live a long and healthy life. The likelihood of him developing serious complications is small, but still exists.
If a person neglects to manage their condition as recommended, his future is in jeopardy. Potential complications include an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, neuropathy, poor circulation to the extremities, vision loss, and frequent infections. The longer a person has the condition and the less he keeps it under control, the more likely he is to develop complications.
The More We Understand About What Is Diabetes – The Scarier It Gets
The more we learn about the answers to the question – what is diabetes, the more frightening it becomes. Diabetics have more than twice the risk of suffering from heart disease and stroke than the rest of the population. In addition, diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure and dialysis, amputations not attributed to trauma, and blindness in adults. Diabetes is even the seventh leading cause of fatality in the U. S. and even though it does not show up in statistics, is a contributing factor in two of the top three causes of death: heart disease and stroke.
If you or a loved one are at risk for or believe that you may already have diabetes, you should have your blood sugar tested right away. More than half of the American adult population is pre – diabetic; a precursor condition to full blown diabetes. What does this mean for you? You should be tested and begin implementing lifestyle changes right away. You should increase your level of physical activity, eat a healthy diet low in saturated and trans fat, processed foods, and sugar, and rest well. The more you do now to change, the better off you will be in the long run, and the less you will have to worry about the question, “what is diabetes?”