What is Diabetes?

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What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a problem with your body that causes blood glucose (sugar) levels to rise higher than normal. This is also called hyperglycemia.

When you eat your body breaks food down into glucose and sends it into the blood. Insulin then helps move the glucose from the blood into your cells. When glucose enters your cells, it is either used as fuel for energy right away or stored for later use. In a person with diabetes, there is a problem with insulin. But, not everyone with diabetes has the same problem.

There are different types of diabetes – type 1, type 2, and a condition called gestational diabetes, which happens during pregnancy. If you have diabetes, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin, it can’t use the insulin it does make very well or both.

Source: American Diabetes Association

What is Type 1 Diabetes?

In type 1 diabetes, your immune system mistakenly destroys the cells in your pancreas that make insulin. Your body treats these cells as invaders and destroys them. This can happen over a few weeks, months, or years.

When enough beta cells are destroyed, your pancreas stops making insulin or makes too little insulin. Because the pancreas does not make insulin, insulin needs to be replaced. Insulin does not come in a pill. People with type 1 diabetes take insulin by injection with a syringe, an insulin pen, or an insulin pump. Without insulin, your blood glucose rises and is higher than normal, which is called hyperglycemia.

Type 1 diabetes affects about 5% of people in the United States with diabetes. In the past type 1 diabetes was called juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes. It’s usually first diagnosed in young people but it can occur at any age. Type 1 diabetes is much less common than type 2 diabetes.

What is Type 2 Diabetes?

In type 2 diabetes your body does not use insulin properly. This is called insulin resistance. At first, the pancreas makes extra insulin to make up for it. Over time your pancreas isn’t able to keep up and can’t make enough insulin to keep your blood glucose levels normal. Type 2 is treated with lifestyle changes, oral medications (pills), and insulin.

Some people with type 2 diabetes can control their blood glucose with healthy eating and being active. But, your doctor may need to also prescribe oral medications or insulin to help you meet your target blood glucose levels. Type 2 diabetes usually gets worse over time – even if you don’t need medications at first, you may need them later on.

What is Gestational Diabetes?

Pregnant women who have never had diabetes before but who have high blood glucose (sugar) levels during pregnancy are said to have gestational diabetes. According to a 2014 analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the prevalence of gestational diabetes is as high as 9.2%.

We don’t know what causes gestational diabetes, but we have some clues. The placenta supports the baby as it grows. Hormones from the placenta help the baby develop. But these hormones also block the action of the mother’s insulin in her body. This problem is called insulin resistance. Insulin resistance makes it hard for the mother’s body to use insulin. She may need up to three times as much Insulin.

Gestational diabetes starts when your body is not able to make and use all the insulin it needs for pregnancy. Without enough insulin, glucose cannot leave the blood and be changed to energy. When glucose builds up in the blood to high levels, this is called hyperglycemia.

Who is at risk of having gestational diabetes?

One or more of the following factors may increase your risk of having GDM:

  • Having a close family member who has diabetes.
  • Having a history of high blood sugar.
  • Having a weight more than your caregiver advised before and during pregnancy.
  • Having given birth to a previous baby weighing more than 9 pounds, 14 ounces.
  • Having glycosuria (sugar in your urine).
  • Women who are black, Hispanic or American Indians have an increased risk of GDM

Source: American Diabetes Association

What are the Symptoms of Diabetes I should look for?

There are many symptoms that may lead to a diabetes diagnosis.  Click on the link below to read more information on the signs and symptoms of diabetes. If you experience any of the following symptoms, please contact your healthcare provider.

Signs and Symptoms of Diabetes

Where can I find Support and More Information?

Having diabetes is a life-changing disease for you and your family. Accepting that you have diabetes may be hard. Your doctor may recommend that you meet with a diabetes educator and registered dietitian to work towards a healthier lifestyle.  The Center for Nutrition and Diabetes Management will work with you and the rest of your healthcare team to help you achieve your goals.  For more information about our programs or to schedule an appointment, please call our office at (908) 237-6920.

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