A comprehensive guide on the different types of diabetes, their warning signs and symptoms, and the treatment options available for them.
Diabetes mellitus or diabetes as it is commonly known is the 7th leading cause of death in the US from the various symptoms of diabetes and diabetes-related complications. The number of sufferers keeps multiplying every day.
This is mainly due to lifestyle choices as well as genes. Diabetes may be cured or managed through making better lifestyle choices and staying on top of insulin levels.
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What is Diabetes?
Diabetes impairs the way the body uses digested food for energy. The sugars and starches in the food we eat are broken down by digestive juices into a simple sugar called glucose .
Glucose circulates in the blood as the major energy source for the body. For cells in muscles and other tissues to use glucose for energy, the hormone insulin must be present.
Insulin is produced by the pancreas gland located behind the stomach. When the right amount of insulin is present, the insulin removes the accumulated glucose in the bloodstream and distributes it to the various cells in the body. Glucose is either used as fuel for energy or stored in the liver for future use .
Diabetes results from the way that the body processes the carbohydrates contained in food. Carbohydrates are usually converted into the simplest form of sugar known as glucose which is then accumulated in the bloodstream to be distributed by the hormone insulin that is produced by the pancreas.
If you have diabetes, the pancreas may not make enough or any insulin, or the body does not respond to the insulin that is present. Insulin resistance may develop due to poor food choices.
Sometimes, a person with diabetes can have both these problems. As a result, glucose builds up in the blood and tissues, overflows into the urine, and is excreted. Thus, the body loses its main source of fuel. The excess accumulation of the glucose in the blood is also detrimental to several organs of the body such as the heart and kidney.
Different Types of Diabetes
Type 1 (Diabetes Insulin dependent)
Type 1 diabetes was previously known as juvenile diabetes. Type 1 diabetes usually begins in childhood and involves a malfunctioning pancreas which is the organ in the human body responsible for creating insulin .
Patients usually have daily shots of insulin in order to survive. With type 1 diabetes, the pancreas makes little or no insulin which makes the daily shots of insulin critical for the patient.
The insulin injection is administered under the skin for type 1 diabetics. It cannot be orally administered because absorption from the gastrointestinal tract into the bloodstream is not possible. It is only possible to be absorbed into the bloodstream when the insulin is administered through the skin.
Type 2 Diabetes (non-insulin dependent)
Patients with type 2 diabetes have cells that are resistant to the insulin produced or they do not produce enough insulin. This type is common in adults although children are beginning to be seen with this type. Type 2 diabetes is the more common type of diabetes. This type can be controlled with changes in diet and regular exercise .
Even with treatment, however, both types of diabetes can cause long-term damage to the eyes, nerves, heart, and kidneys. These complications can lead to blindness, heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, diabetic comas that can be fatal, and serious infections that may require limb amputation.
With Type 1 diabetes, episodes of very high or low blood sugar may cause a diabetic coma. Careful treatment of diabetes mellitus is the most effective way to minimize the chances of complications and reduce or eliminate the various diabetes symptoms.
Gestational Diabetes (pregnancy related)
A few women develop this type of diabetes during the third trimester and usually resolves itself in the months after childbirth . The mother may develop Type 2 diabetes later in life after contracting gestational diabetes.
What is Gestational Diabetes?
Gestational diabetes affects pregnant women usually during the third trimester of the pregnancy. Some women usually develop insulin resistance during pregnancy which is why this type of diabetes is referred to as gestational diabetes.
Gestational diabetes behaves in the same way as when a non-pregnant person develops diabetes. In many cases, gestational diabetes goes away on its own a few weeks or months after giving birth to the baby when the woman’s blood glucose control and insulin production return to normal levels.
However, some women who have had gestational diabetes during a pregnancy may develop Type 2 diabetes later on in life.
With gestational diabetes, the placenta that provides the baby with nourishment and keeps the baby alive as the baby grows within the uterus also releases a hormone that can effectively block or inhibit the pancreas in a pregnant woman from producing insulin which is necessary to maintain normal blood glucose levels.
It can also affect the way a woman’s body uses the insulin that is produced and may cause insulin resistance in some cases. When there is too much glucose in a woman’s bloodstream that is not being removed from the blood by insulin and distributed to the various cells in the body and converted into energy or fuel, it leads to high blood sugar levels which is a cornerstone of diabetes. This condition is known as hyperglycemia.
Every woman is routinely screened and should be routinely screened for gestational diabetes during her frequent prenatal care visits. The urine sample that the woman provides is checked for glucose among other things.
If the urine sample shows signs of glucose this usually represents a red flag and her doctor will usually have the pregnant woman screened for gestational diabetes. The doctor will then send the pregnant women to a medical lab to have blood work done and if the results come back positive, a referral will be given to an endocrinologist (a doctor specializing in the treatment of diabetics).
A gestational diabetes treatment and management plan will then be put in place for the pregnant woman to follow for the rest of the pregnancy.
Gestational diabetes is a serious condition but it does not usually lead to a great cause for alarm for the mother and the developing fetus. There are many things known about treating diabetes in pregnancy – although not as much information on why it occurs.
When the pregnant woman follows a proper diabetes management program that includes proper control of blood sugar levels, following a proper diet, and regular exercise, the pregnant woman who suffers from gestational diabetes can go on to deliver a healthy baby.
Warning Symptoms of Diabetes
Symptoms of diabetes vary depending on the type of diabetes that you suffer from.
Diabetes is often called “the Silent Killer” because its signs and symptoms tend to develop gradually over several years if at all. In addition, the early symptoms of diabetes tend to be mild and can be ignored much to the detriment of the diabetic because the earlier you become aware of having this disease, the better.
The early symptoms of diabetes such as fatigue, frequent urination, weakness, etc are usually mild and often associated with many other common illnesses which are often why they go underdiagnosed at earlier stages.
There are various warning signs of diabetes that can be present in an individual. Some people with diabetes don’t exhibit a single symptom for years which is why about half of diabetes sufferers do not know that they have the disease. This makes periodic diabetes tests important to determine whether you have it or not.
Type 1 Diabetes
– Frequent need to urinate. See explanation below.
– Excessive thirst. When a diabetic person has high levels of glucose in the blood, the body will attempt to dilute the blood which means they will have frequent brain signals that water is necessary which leads to extreme thirst.
This then means that diabetics also have high urination levels leading to dehydration and the vicious and deadly cycle continues. This is one of the early symptoms of diabetes.
– Extreme hunger
– Sudden weight loss that is unusual. The loss of the high levels of glucose and water through urine is one of the causes of the extreme weight loss.
– Extreme fatigue throughout the day and irritability. Since the body is not getting any distribution of glucose required for energy, extreme fatigue will be experienced by diabetics. This is another of the early symptoms of diabetes.
Type 2 Diabetes
– Any of the above symptoms
– Getting infections frequently
– Sudden changes in eyesight and vision
– Cuts and/or bruises that are slow to heal. These slow healing wounds can lead to more infections that can cause ulcers and other problems.
– Tingling and/or numbness in the hands and/or feet. This may signal nerve damage that may require limb amputations.
– Drowsiness which is another of the early symptoms of diabetes.
– Very itchy or dry skin.
– Irritability, vomiting, and nausea which also happens to be one of the early symptoms of diabetes.
Proper treatment of diabetes, as well as increased emphasis on blood sugar control and lifestyle factors (such as not smoking and keeping a healthy body weight through exercise and diet), may improve the risk profile of most diabetes-related complications and diabetes symptoms.
There’s still much research to be done into the causes of diabetes. Some of the causes of diabetes include a family history of diabetes mellitus as well as poor lifestyle choices that may lead to the various warning signs of diabetes and diabetes symptoms.
Research reveals that the body can start to malfunction 5 to 7 years before the diagnosis of diabetes and before any signs of diabetes show up. This explains why almost half the people with diabetes remain undiagnosed.
Do not ignore the signs and symptoms of diabetes as the situation will only get worse. If you feel that something is just not “quite right”, schedule a doctor’s appointment immediately.
What is Pre-Diabetes?
You may have heard this term used quite often and may be wondering what pre-diabetes is and if you or a loved one are going through this. When someone suffers from Type 1 diabetes, the development is usually quite fast and there are no gray areas as compared to Type 2 diabetes which develops gradually over many years and has some gray areas.
100 million+ Americans have been found to have pre-diabetes or diabetes .
With Type 2 diabetes, when certain people are at a high risk for developing this condition, pre-diabetes may be identified. Pre-diabetes means that a person has high glucose levels but these glucose levels are not as high as those that lead to a diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes .
When someone is suffering from pre-diabetes, the period of time until they develop Type 2 diabetes cannot be determined accurately. Pre-diabetes can lead to Type 2 diabetes quite rapidly or can take a while to turn into Type 2 diabetes.
Incorporating healthy eating habits, daily physical exercise and careful monitoring can delay or eliminate the onset of Type 2 diabetes if you have been diagnosed as prediabetic.
Once you are identified as pre-diabetic, blood tests will need to be performed on an annual basis to ensure that the blood sugar levels are kept at a healthy level. You may need to purchase a blood sugar monitor that you will use regularly at home to ensure that blood glucose levels remain at ideal healthy levels.
Pre-Diabetes Risk Factors
Leading a sedentary lifestyle, unhealthy eating habits in addition to being obese or overweight, being at least 45 years of age, having suffered from gestational diabetes as well as a family history of Type 2 diabetes are some of the risk factors associated with pre-diabetes.
To reduce your risk of being pre-diabetic and developing Type 2 diabetes, adopt the health practices that are discussed here.
Complications of Diabetes
Properly managing blood sugar levels is the key to avoiding complications of diabetes that may be life-threatening. Both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes can lead to hyperglycemia or high blood glucose levels.
The long-term effects of suffering from hyperglycemia can lead to damage to the blood vessels, nerves, kidneys, heart and the eye’s retina.
Below are some of the most common complications of Diabetes:
1. Diabetic retinopathy which results from the damage to the retina is the main cause of blindness in diabetics.
2. Another of the complications of diabetes relating to hyperglycemia is diabetic nephropathy which represents the damage to the kidneys that may lead to kidney failure at some point.
3. Acceleration of atherosclerosis, which represents the development of fatty plaques in the arteries. This can lead to a clot or blockage causing a heart attack or stroke, and the decrease in the blood circulation to the extremities (arms and legs). This condition may starve the extremities of needed blood circulation and nutrients causing these parts to die and require amputation.
4. Nerve damage due to hyperglycemia can lead to the development of wounds and ulcers in the feet also known as diabetic neuropathy. Because one of the symptoms of diabetes is slow healing wounds, these foot wounds and ulcers may lead to gangrene and bacteria which will then require the amputation of the foot and leg.
5. Nerve damage to the autonomic nervous system can cause gastroparesis which can lead to the paralysis of the stomach, diarrhea, heart palpitations, and not being able to control blood pressure.
6. Diabetics usually suffer from high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure and high triglyceride levels which individually or singularly can lead to increased risk of kidney disease, heart disease, etc.
7. When the blood sugar levels get too high, it can lead to a serious health condition known as hyperosmolar hyperglycemic nonketotic syndrome . When blood sugar levels become too high, the body will seek to get rid of this glucose through urine which can lead to dehydration due to excessive urination. When this dehydration becomes too severe, it can lead to a diabetic coma that may prove fatal, seizures, etc.
8. As opposed to hyperglycemia, there is another condition known as hypoglycemia which represents low blood sugar levels that may occur frequently with diabetics when they take too much diabetes medication, too much insulin, skip a meal, do more exercise than what is required.
This condition can lead to headaches, lack of concentration, excessive sweating, hands shaking, dizziness, etc. If the diabetic person is still conscious, this condition can be rectified easily by feeding the diabetic sugar or candy bars or by some other appropriate treatment.
9. Another of the complications of diabetes is known as diabetic ketoacidosis. Uncontrolled Hyperglycemia can over time lead to the over the buildup of ketones in the bloodstream which can be very harmful. This condition is especially prevalent in diabetics with Type 1 diabetes.
Causes of the Significant Increase in Diabetes Cases
There are two main causes of the rapidly increasing rate of diabetes mellitus and diabetes symptoms: unhealthy eating, and a lack of exercise.
America is becoming a fast food nation that puts exercise and healthy eating habits on the back burner. This has led to an increasingly large number of Americans leading extremely unhealthy lifestyles. If you haven’t already I suggest you watch the two documentaries “Supersize Me” and “Food, Inc.”
Between candy, potato chips, French fries, and soda, we’re practically pouring sugar down our throats. On top of that, a lot of processed foods contain corn which also increases the sugar amounts ingested.
The majority of Americans eat twice as many calories as necessary, as well as 160 pounds of sugar that isn’t necessary at all. Add lack of exercise to that equation and you’ll quickly begin to understand that this problem is getting out of control. Alcohol and nicotine don’t help either.
Put these factors together and you have a recipe for disaster: a skyrocketing diabetes rate, with no end in sight.
About 1/10 of all diabetes cases are Type 1 diabetics which starts in children and young adults and requires daily insulin injections. OF the total adult-onset diabetes or Type 2 diabetes, about 1/3 probably need insulin injections to control blood sugar levels.
Another one-third of these Type 2 diabetics use various prescribed diabetes medications to lead to an increase in insulin levels. The remainder of these Type 2 diabetics can successfully make lifestyle changes and properly manage or cure this disease. Lifestyle changes include following a diabetes diet, incorporating exercise and losing and maintaining an ideal weight.
Diabetes Risk Factors
1. Having a high Body Mass Index (BMI) for your height and weight. It is no secret that one of the main diabetes risk factors is being overweight or obese. Managing your weight and keeping maintaining an ideal weight will significantly reduce your risk of developing diabetes mellitus.
2.Lack of exercise. A sedentary lifestyle coupled with poor eating habits highly contribute to the diabetes epidemic.
3. A family history of diabetes.
4. Being African American, Native American, Latin American, Asian American as these ethnic groups have higher diabetes rates .
5. History of hypertension.
Diabetes itself is not the main health risk; instead, the complications it causes over time are the primary concern. Being aware of the diabetes risk factors and adjusting your behavior if you notice any red flags in your life will help you to avoid diabetes and the diabetes-related symptoms and complications.
The majority of these complications are related to the negative effects diabetes has on the body’s arterial and nervous systems.
Diabetes is the highest growing epidemic in the US and many people ignore the diabetes risk factors in their own lives and it is high time that each one of us takes action to stop this epidemic in its tracks!
When you know better, you do better.
Diabetes management is crucial whether you take daily injections of insulin (mainly Type 1 diabetes), take medications to manage insulin production or need to make lifestyle changes.
A proactive approach is the only way to manage and treat diabetes. You cannot simply rely on your doctor to cure it for you. It is your body and your health so it’s up to you to follow through with any reliable diabetes management programs suggested by your doctor or other healthcare professionals.
Proper diabetes management can give you many years of healthy living and you will be able to lead a full and productive life. There are many people that we know that suffer from this disease but are still able to achieve many life goals and lead active lives.
Diabetes management starts with a visit to your doctor. First, finding out whether you have diabetes, what type you have and then arming yourself with as much information as possible about the type of diabetes you are diagnosed with will go a long way to treating and curing diabetes.
All diabetes management begins with controlling the glucose cycle once you receive a positive diagnosis.
The glucose cycle is affected mainly by two factors – entry of glucose into the bloodstream and blood levels of insulin to control the transport out.
Your glucose levels are very sensitive to both diet and exercise, so making a change in either and preferably both of these areas should first be discussed with your physician. Proper management of diabetes can be very intrusive to the patient but a proactive approach is the only way forward if you wish to conquer this disease.
It a complete lifestyle change and frequent, sometimes multi-daily checks of glucose in the blood using the various glucose monitors that are currently available on the market.
Blood glucose levels can change as people grow and develop and no two diabetes cases are ever really the same. It is currently much easier with the various advancements in glucose meters to measure the blood sugar level with the least amount of pain and discomfort.
Glucose meters are readily available and are quite easy to use with a little practice and patience and are vital to a diabetes management program.
With simply a small drop of blood applied to the testing strip attached to the glucose meter, the diabetic is given the number, which represents their blood sugar level. This, in turn, will let the user know if and when insulin is needed or if they need to make certain changes to their diet such as spacing out carbohydrate consumption during the day.
A diabetic person needs to know how to manage carbohydrates in the diet which is how carbohydrate counting comes in. The first step to manage carbohydrates which is what impacts glucose the most is to avoid all “white” foods. No white bread, white rice, white pasta, etc should be consumed.
A diabetic needs to add more complex carbohydrates to their diet. Complex carbohydrates are usually found in beans, grains, peas, potatoes etc. Complex carbohydrates make the body work which means that blood sugar levels will rise at a slower pace than if you consumed the various “white” food. The body does not need to work much in order to digest “white ” foods which means that blood sugar levels will increase at a rapid pace.
Try to add more whole grains and fiber to your diet which will not only allow the blood sugar levels to increase slowly but will allow you to feel full sooner which will aid in your weight loss and weight management.
Diabetes management comes in many forms and you need to find a diabetes management program that works for you and that will help you control your blood sugar levels and avoid the symptoms of diabetes and the diabetes-related complications.
A diabetes diet may sound hard to do but all that is needed is to be consistent and incorporate variety in the diabetes diet. Variety will ensure that you do not become bored and fall off.
Following a proper diet will ensure that you maintain even blood sugar levels, maintain an ideal weight and properly manage diabetes.
The consistency comes in at specific meal times and the same servings from the different food groups. And the variety refers to trying as many different foods in the food groups as you can.
A diabetic person should not eat a large meal in one seating. It is best to space out meals throughout the day so that you do not experience high or low blood sugar levels.
It can be easy to find a few meals that work well to control your blood sugar levels and are easy to prepare and just stick with them. You are more than likely to get bored with this and you probably aren’t getting all of the nutrients you need from a set amount of foods.
You may find times when you try a new food item that results in your blood sugars being higher. When this happens, you may want to determine whether there is anything else that you did differently that day – whether it was less activity or taking your insulin later than you usually do.
If the new food item is the only change that you made, you may want to talk to your dietitian. You may be able to prepare the food in a different way: steaming vs frying – or eat it with something else or you may have to avoid that food altogether if it just does not work for your diabetic diet.
Diabetes diets as mentioned earlier may include carbohydrate counting diets or the exchange diet. You can combine different foods together for something new or try various foods you have never had before.
You can meet with your dietitian as well as various reliable online sources to get additional ideas for recipes and other foods that you can eat to add more variety to your diabetic diet and meet your weight goals as well as your blood sugar management goals.
Diabetes Diets do not mean that you should eat boring food or cannot be adventurous with your food choices and try something new, just do it at regular meal times and within the recommended portion sizes.
Diabetic Diet – Tips To Remember
When looking to commence a diabetic diet to deal with diabetes and the various symptoms of diabetes, the following points should be kept in mind:
- Carbohydrates which are one of the main factors of diabetes should be properly managed to help control the blood sugar levels and keep the level not too high and not too low which makes carbohydrate counting important for any diabetic.
With that in mind, carbohydrates should be more than 50% of the total calories consumed at mealtime. A single gram of carbohydrate usually equals four calories.
- Fat consumed should be kept at less than 30% of total calories and keep in mind that a gram of fat accounts for 9 calories. When reducing the amount of fat in a diet, it is important to keep in mind that there are “good” fats and “bad” fats.
The body does not need bad fats such as trans fats and saturated fats. The body does need “good” fats such as polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Decrease the bad fats in a diet while increasing the good fats and keep the total calories from fat at less than 30% of the total.
- Keeping in mind that a single gram of protein accounts for 4 calories, protein consumption should be kept to between 12 to 20% of the total calories.
- Fiber should be included in every meal.
- Ensure that cholesterol is kept to less than 300 milligrams a day. One way to do this is that by reducing the number of saturated fats (bad fats) consumed, cholesterol is automatically reduced.
The above are only a few tips to remember if you seek to overcome diabetes and the symptoms of diabetes. Paying attention to what you eat is very important for anyone suffering from diabetes who wishes to take control of this disease.
Reading Food Labels
Reading food labels is very important for everyone but more so for diabetics. On all packaged food that is bought, there is usually a food label that includes important information that needs to be reviewed by a diabetic.
You need to start learning how to read them properly and know what the different numbers and percentages mean to you and your diabetes diet and how they will impact your diet.
Below is an overview of the basic information you need to know about food labels and your diabetes diet.
Whether you are carbohydrate counting diet, exchange diet, or you are on the Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC) diet to manage your blood sugar levels, you can increase your chances for success by reading food labels and understanding what they mean to you and your particular diet.
The ingredient list is a great place to start before looking at the various numbers on the food label. You will need to find the sugar on the ingredient list. The closer the ingredient is to the beginning of the list, the more of it is present in the food.
This applies to all ingredients – manufacturers usually list the ingredients in order of the amount that is in the food item. If there are items in your food that you know will not work well for managing your blood sugar that is included on the list, the food item should be avoided entirely or eaten in moderation.
Another important aspect to watch out for when reading food labels is to take into consideration the serving size that is noted on the label and compare that to the number of carbs in a single serving.
The most carbohydrate serving sizes for a diabetic is about 15 grams. If one serving is higher than 15 grams you will have to eat less than the recommended serving size to stay on track with your diabetes diet.
It is also important to note that a lot of serving sizes are not feasible. The ingredient list shown for that serving size may only be for a single bite so you need to be aware and be vigilant so that you do not wreak havoc on your diabetes diet.
When reading food labels, it is also important to consider sugar-free foods that may grab your attention as something safe and yummy to add to your shopping cart. But look at the carbohydrate count first before purchase and before adding to your diet. Most foods that are made sugar-free use artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes and thereby have higher carbohydrate counts.
Reading food labels also requires checking the fat content as well. Look for a low percentage of fat content for your daily intake and ideally, it will be monounsaturated as opposed to polyunsaturated or saturated fats which are recognized as bad fats. Monounsaturated fats are known as the good fats and the body needs these. Examples include olive oil, canola oil, omega 3 fatty acids (salmon is a good source), etc.
Type 2 Diabetes And Weight loss
While Type 1 diabetes may be unavoidable, Type 2 diabetes and the symptoms of Type 2 diabetes are commonly caused by being overweight and obese. The current epidemic with Type 2 diabetes and why this type is increasingly affecting younger and younger people is because of food choices made on a daily basis as well as a lack of activity.
High fat, high calorie, sweet and salty foods that are cheap and easily available are leading to weight gain and obesity which is sending health care costs through the roof!
Take Control of Food Issues
As a diabetic especially with Type 2 diabetes, it is important to consider your weight as well as the types of food that you are eating. You can choose to bury your head in the sand and let diabetes and the symptoms of diabetes take control of your life and body or you can gain control of not only your weight but the food you eat.
To Do This:
1. Determine what triggers your eating. If walking by a particular bakery leads to you walking into the bakery to get that tempting treat that you saw in the window, consider taking another route. Do you eat emotionally?
2. Make a point to prepare food from scratch so that you are not tempted to pull up to the fast food restaurant drive-thru. Plan your daily meals before the start of the day so that you do not start to wonder what you are going to eat when you are returning home from work tired which will only lead to you pulling up at a fast food restaurant.
3. Buy enough food for a few meals at a time. Do not have excessive amounts of food lying around which will only defeat your diet plans. Get used to having empty cupboards and fridges so that you are not tempted to eat even when you are not really hungry.
It is a fact that type 2 diabetes and the various symptoms of type 2 diabetes will be improved or eliminated with weight loss and managing your weight, so make the decision today to fight for your life and not let food control you.
What are your thoughts on the different types of diabetes discussed here?
Please share your experience in the comments below.