Diabetes affects nearly 30 million Americans – adults and children. It is a lifelong disease marked by high levels of sugar in the blood. While there is no cure, many of the complications associated with diabetes can be prevented.
Diabetes is a disease that causes the body to improperly use blood sugar (glucose) from the food you have eaten. Glucose is a major source of energy for your cells and your brain. The disease causes too much glucose to remain in the blood.
Diabetes develops either when the pancreas produces too little or no insulin (the hormone that helps the body convert sugar to energy), or the pancreas makes insulin that doesn’t work correctly. Without insulin, the cells can’t absorb the sugar, which causes sugar levels to increase; this is known as “hyperglycemia” (high blood sugar) or diabetes.
The disease is broken down into type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is more common in people younger than 20 years old, but it can occur at any age. It is thought to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors, although the exact causes are still unclear. In type 1 diabetes, insulin is either not produced or not enough is produced. People with this disease need insulin injections. Type 2 diabetes is more common in people over 45 years old, and in those who are overweight. It can, however, often be managed by weight control, diet and exercise, although insulin injections may also be necessary. There is also a type of diabetes called gestational diabetes, which occurs in pregnancy and is often reversible.