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Jamaica Scientific Research Institute
Healing the world, one disorder at a time

Diabetes

Diabetes is a disorder in which blood sugar, and specifically glucose, is constantly too high. Glucose is an important molecule as it is the primary source of energy for cells, and by extension the entire body, including the brain. Most foods break down into some glucose after it is eaten and digested. After digestion, glucose passes into the bloodstream, and then is transported to cells. For glucose to get into cells so that it can be used, insulin must be present. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas, a large gland behind the stomach. When people eat, the pancreas automatically produces the right amount of insulin to move glucose from blood into the cells. In persons with diabetes, something goes wrong. 


Either:

a) Enough insulin is not produced by the pancreas or 


b) Enough insulin is produced but the cells cannot use the insulin that is produced. This is called insulin resistance.


Glucose therefore builds up in the blood, overflows into the urine, and passes out of the body in the urine, causing the body to lose a part of its vital energy supply. Apart from this loss, however, too much glucose in the blood can lead to other serious health conditions.


There are different types of Diabetes, including the three listed below, among many others.
  1. Diabetes Insipidus (DI) (insipidus is latin for "lacks flavor") is a relatively rare chronic disease characterized by the excretion of large quantities of dilute urine but where the urine is free from sugar and other abnormal constituents. In this condition the pituitary gland fails to produce the hormone vasopressin which controls re absorption of water from the kidneys.
  2. Renal Diabetes (RD) is a benign form of glucosuria (excretion of sugar in the urine) due to a low-sugar threshold in the kidneys. Blood glucose levels are normal but the kidney fails to reabsorb the normal amount of glucose back into the blood and therefore glucose above the threshold is excreted in the urine.
  3. Diabetes Mellitus (DM) (mellitus is latin for sweet) is the most familiar type of diabetes and is the one that most persons refer to when they mention"diabetes". The term "diabetes mellitus"refers to a group of metabolic diseases that affect how your body uses blood glucose. There are two fundamental causes of diabetes mellitus:
Diabetes mellitus may be further subdivided into:
  • Type 1 where the body cannot make insulin also known as insulin-dependent or juvenile diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is less common than type 2 diabetes. About 10% of all people with diabetes have Type 1 diabetes and these persons will need insulin injections for the rest of your life.
  • Type 2 where the body does not make enough insulin or cannot use the insulin as it should. Type 2 diabetes is a progressive condition that can be properly control at the onset with dietary and lifestyle changes.
  • Gestational diabetes that occurs during pregnancy. It may precede Type 2 diabetes and affects around 5% of women. and is suspected to be caused by the hormonal changes in women that accompany pregnancy, especially in the third trimester.

Prediabetes is a condition in which blood sugar is higher than normal but not high enough to be classified as diabetes. People who monitor themselves carefully at the prediabetic stage may avoid getting full blown diabetes later on.

Symptoms

Symptoms vary depending on how much your blood sugar is elevated. Some people, especially those with prediabetes or Type 2 diabetes, may not experience symptoms initially. In fact, many people have type 2 diabetes for years without realizing it. In Type 1 diabetes, symptoms usually surface quickly and are more severe.


Although type 1 diabetes can develop at any age, it typically appears during childhood or adolescence. Type 2 diabetes, the more common type, can develop at any age and is often preventable.

Signs and symptoms of type 1 and type 2 diabetes tend to be largely similar and include the following:

  • Increased thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Extreme hunger
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Presence of ketones in the urine (ketones are a byproduct of the breakdown of muscle and fat that happens when there's not enough insulin)
  • Frequent infections, such as gums or skin infections and vaginal or bladder infections
  • Blurred vision
  • Slow-healing sores
  • High blood pressure
  • Fatigue
  • After many years, diabetes can lead to other serious problems including progressive and complete blindness., amputation of limbs because of difficulty healing, neuropathy, that is, nerve damage, and more so of the back and lower limbs. Nerve damage can also make it harder for men to have an erection.

Cause

 

Type 1

  • The body's immune system attacks and destroys the cells that produce insulin, called beta cells
 

Type 2

  • The body does not produce enough insulin, or the body's cells do not react to insulin. This is known as insulin resistance.
 

Gestational

  • Suspected to be caused by the hormonal changes in women that accompany pregnancy, especially in the third trimester.

Risk Factors for Type 2 diabetes

Researchers don't fully understand why some people develop prediabetes and type 2 diabetes and others don't. It's clear that certain factors increase the risk, however, and include:

  • Being overweight
  • Being physically inactive
  • Family history
  • High blood pressure
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome
  • Abnormal cholesterol and triglyceride levels
  • Race and especially blacks, Hispanics, American Indians and Asians
  • Age, but type 2 diabetes is also increasing dramatically among children, adolescents and younger adults.
  • Gestational diabetes. In addition, if you gave birth to a baby weighing more than 9 pounds (4 kilograms), you're also at risk of type 2 diabetes.

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