Diabetes is a group of diseases that affects the body’s ability to use and regulate blood sugar (glucose). Glucose comes from the food we eat and is the major source of energy for the cells that make up the body’s tissues, muscles, and brain.
When you eat, your body breaks food down into glucose which is absorbed by your bloodstream. As your glucose level rises, your pancreas is triggered to produce insulin that circulates in the bloodstream. Insulin is a hormone that acts like a key to open up the body’s cells to receive glucose and use it for energy. Insulin keeps the level of sugar in your bloodstream at healthy levels.
The process of insulin production and blood sugar regulation does not work properly in a diabetic’s body. Blood sugar levels can reach dangerously high levels, and if left untreated, can cause serious consequences to the body’s vital organs or even be fatal.
Prediabetes and Gestational Diabetes
Prediabetes and gestational diabetes are potentially reversible. In prediabetes, blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be classified as diabetes. Unless appropriate measures are taken, prediabetes can progress and become chronic diabetes.
Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy and frequently resolves after the baby is delivered. However, having gestational diabetes can be a risk factor for developing chronic diabetes.
Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is also known as juvenile diabetes because it usually strikes in childhood. Type 1 occurs when the autoimmune system attacks and destroys the beta cells in the pancreas that produce the body’s insulin. Without beta cells, the pancreas is not able to produce any insulin. Without insulin circulating in the body, too much sugar stays in the bloodstream instead of entering the cells to provide energy. Sustained high blood sugar levels can cause life-threatening conditions and long-term health consequences to many vital organ systems. Type 1 requires life-long management with the use of an insulin pump or insulin injections by a needle.
Causes of Type 1 Diabetes
The causes of type 1 are still being researched. Suspected causes of type 1 diabetes include:
- A virus
- Environmental factors
- Inherited genes
- A combination of all of these variables
Treatment for Type 1 Diabetes:
Insulin pumps are designed to do what the pancreas can no longer do in the body of a type 1 diabetic: provide insulin to regulate the body’s level of blood sugar. Insulin pumps deliver insulin continuously, the way your pancreas does.
With a pump, the insulin is released into your body through a tiny cannula (thin, flexible tube). Pumps are connected to a computerized device that lets you control the frequency and dose of insulin.
Insulin can also be administered by a needle into the skin. Insulin is stored in small vials and needs to be refrigerated.
Type 2 Diabetes
With type 1, the pancreas produces no insulin. With type 2, the pancreas produces insulin, but less and less over time, and the insulin produced often does not work as it should. Cells become resistant to insulin and do not take sugar in as they should. High blood sugar levels result, and if unmanaged, serious health problems, including heart disease, stroke, or other organ diseases, can result.
Type 2 is the most common form of diabetes. It usually affects older adults, although it is becoming more common in children as obesity levels rise among youth. About 1 in 10 Americans have type 2 diabetes. It is the 7th leading cause of death in the U.S.
You are more at risk for developing Type 2 diabetes if you:
- Have prediabetes (higher than normal blood sugar)
- Are 45 years of age or older
- Do not get regular exercise
- Are overweight or obese
- Had gestational diabetes while pregnant
- Have a family history of diabetes
- Have high blood pressure
- Are Black, Hispanic, American Indian, Asian American or Pacific Islander
Causes of Type 2 Diabetes
When cells do not respond to insulin, it is called insulin resistance. This is usually caused by:
- Lifestyle factors, including lack of exercise and obesity
- Abnormal genes that prevent cells from working as they should
Symptoms of Diabetes
The symptoms of diabetes vary. Some people, especially those with prediabetes or type 2, may not feel any symptoms for a long time. Type 1 diabetic symptoms, however, tend to come on more suddenly and tend to appear during childhood or adolescence, although symptoms can appear at any age. Type 2 diabetes, the more prevalent type, tends to occur in people 40 years of age or older.
Some of the symptoms of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes include:
- Increased thirst
- Increased feeling of extreme hunger
- Frequent urination
- Unexplained weight loss
- Blurred vision
- Slow-healing wounds
- Frequent infections, such as gum, skin, or vaginal infections
- Presence of ketones in the urine (ketones are the byproduct of the breakdown of muscle and fat that happens when the body doesn’t have enough insulin)
Catawba Valley Healthcare is Here to Help You Manage Your Diabetes
Our primary care providers work closely with our diabetic patients and their specialists. Our providers will interface with your other medical specialists, dieticians, and therapists to ensure optimal management of all your diabetic symptoms and needs.
Hemoglobin A1C Checks
As a diabetic patient at Catawba Valley Healthcare, you will receive consistent checks on your A1C levels (the average amount of sugar in your blood over the course of three months). These readings are an important ongoing part of your care management program, providing vital feedback on how your insulin delivery system, dietary choices, and health patterns are working for you.
Diet management, insulin delivery, lifestyle habits, and foot, eye, and other organ care will all be critical issues that your diabetic team of healthcare providers will address. Call us today if you have any concerns about diabetic symptoms or management at (828) 695-5900.