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Disorders of the Pancreas: Types, Symptoms & Treatments

Disorders of the Pancreas: Types, Symptoms & Treatments
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  • 0:01 pancreas
  • 0:36 blood sugar
  • 1:55 diabetes mellitus
  • 4:05 type 1 diabetes
  • 4:45 type 2 diabetes
  • 5:32 gestational diabetes
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

The pancreas produces insulin. If the pancreas is incapable of producing insulin or cells do not respond to this hormone, then a person can develop diabetes mellitus. In this lesson, you will learn about diabetes and how it relates to the pancreas.

Pancreas

We previously learned that the pancreas secretes two important hormones for the regulation of your blood sugar level, called insulin and glucagon. While we rarely see any problems associated with glucagon, we do see problems associated with insulin production or the body's sensitivity to this hormone. In this lesson, you will learn what happens when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or your body cells stop responding to the insulin in your system.

The pancreas releases glucagon and insulin to control blood glucose levels.
Pancreas Diagram

Blood Sugar

When you eat a meal, the food travels through your digestive tract where it is broken down. The starches and carbohydrates that you eat are broken down into simple sugars. These sugars get absorbed out of your digestive tract and enter your blood as blood glucose, which is also referred to as blood sugar. The bloodstream carries the glucose to the trillions of cells in your body that rely on it for energy. However, a glucose molecule cannot simply travel up to a body cell and enter. It must be let in to the cell with the help of insulin. It is as if insulin has a 'secret knock' that opens up the cell and lets glucose come in. Without insulin, glucose cannot leave the blood and travel into your cells.

In a healthy individual, sufficient amounts of insulin are produced by the pancreas to respond to the amount of sugar in the blood. Also, in a healthy body the cells are able to take in enough glucose to maintain a normal range of blood sugar, which before a meal is typically between 70-130 mg/dL. However, if there is a problem with insulin, blood levels of glucose can rise dramatically. If this is the case, glucose will be lost through the urine because the kidneys cannot reabsorb it fast enough.

Diabetes Mellitus

You might think that excreting glucose through the urine is a good way for the body to get rid of excess glucose. However, the problem is that water follows glucose out of the body, which can lead to dehydration. As you might guess, this loss of water also leads to an increased frequency of urination and an increased thirst. These are the classic symptoms we see in a group of metabolic disorders called diabetes mellitus. Diabetes mellitus is defined as a condition in which the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or cells do not respond to insulin that is produced, resulting in high blood sugar. It is interesting to note that the word 'diabetes' is Greek for 'siphon,' and that the prefix 'mel' from the word 'mellitus' means 'honey,' which of course is sweet. Because we just learned that a person with this condition will lose sugar through the urine, we can see that the word diabetes mellitus literally means something sweet is siphoned or passed through the body. Analysis of the urine is one way to check for diabetes.

We know that your body cells cannot get glucose without insulin, so you might be wondering how your cells get energy. After all, glucose is the main form of energy for your cells. In a person with diabetes, fats - and sometimes proteins - are broken down for energy. This helps meet the energy needs for the body, but because the body still craves the quick energy of carbohydrates, a person with diabetes may experience an increase in hunger. So, we see that a person with diabetes mellitus presents with some classic symptoms: polyuria, which is increased urination; polydipsia, which is increased thirst; and polyphagia, which is increased hunger. We can recall these terms by remembering that the prefix 'poly' means 'many' or 'increased,' and the suffixes 'uria,' 'dipsia' and 'phagia' mean 'urine,' 'thirst' and 'eat' respectively.

Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus

There are three main types of diabetes mellitus. Type 1 diabetes mellitus results when the pancreas is unable to produce insulin. In type 1 diabetes, the beta cells within the pancreas are destroyed due to an autoimmune response. Because the insulin-producing beta cells are destroyed, no insulin is produced.

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