Diabetes – An Introduction to Diabetes
Diabetes, a disease characterized by chronic high levels of glucose in the blood, is not the major problem it once was. Prior to the end of the 19th century, it might well have been a death sentence for many. Excess glucose can have a number of ill effects, including poor cut healing or kidney damage, even coma. With the advancement of monitoring and insulin delivery methods, it’s often now little more than another daily task to perform.
Though the underlying causes are not fully understood, diabetes results from either too little insulin being produced or ineffective use of it by the body. In Type 1 diabetes, for example, the islet cells of the pancreas fail to produce an amount of insulin adequate to allow blood glucose to enter cells where it’s used for energy. In Type 2, the cells may resist insulin’s action, once again leaving too much glucose in the blood.
But though they’re not completely known, experts agree that the causes of the different types of diabetes are generally a combination of genetic predisposition and environmental or lifestyle factors. In some cases, one or the other may dominate. Gestational diabetes, for example, affects about 3% of pregnant women usually from around 24-28 weeks into term. But it goes away after birth. Type 1, on the other hand, affects mostly juveniles and is largely genetic.
In all cases, the symptoms are usually roughly the same: excessively frequent urination, unquenchable thirst, sometimes accompanied by dizziness or stomach pains. Naturally, these common symptoms can have a number of causes. Anyone suspecting he or she has diabetes should be tested by a physician.
Those tests are simple and relatively painless, only requiring a small blood sample. Blood glucose level is measured, with normal running around 99 mg/dL, while diabetics have a level of 126 mg/dL or above. It may require more than one test to confirm the disease.
Once confirmed, regular blood glucose monitoring is a must. Fortunately, there are today many convenient ways to do that. Testing devices the size of a cell phone are common. A small sample of blood is smeared on a strip fed into the instrument, which delivers a number within seconds. Some recent devices measure glucose level through the skin using an infrared beam.
Treatments are equally easy for most diabetics. In some cases careful diet and appropriate exercise may be enough to keep the right glucose-insulin balance. In the usual case, insulin delivery is called for. But that too is much easier than in generations past. Small insulin-containing pens can deliver the exact right dose painlessly. Newer oral inhalers are on the market that have met with success.
Though no one wants to have to deal with diabetes, managing the disease is now easier than ever. The possible long term complications of untreated diabetes remain what they always were. By keeping them at bay with simple techniques, most diabetics can enjoy an active fulfilling life just as anyone else.