What is Diabetes? - Types & Symptoms

Instructor: Kimberly Carpenter

Kimberly has an undergraduate degree in Lab Sciences and a Master's degree in Education.

Diabetes is a chronic condition that affects millions of people across the world today. This lesson explains more about the different forms of diabetes and how they may be treated in order for a person to live a healthier life.

Diabetes Overview

Diabetes has led to the death and disability of millions of people worldwide. You or someone you know may be suffering from this chronic illness. The bad thing about diabetes is that it cannot be cured; however, the good thing about diabetes is that you have the ability to control it.

This illness is caused by an imbalance between the insulin and blood sugar inside of a person's body. Insulin is produced by the pancreas. Each person's pancreas has the job of balancing how much insulin to allow into the body, depending on the amount of sugar that is in the blood. When a person has diabetes, though, there is a problem with the pancreas and the insulin/blood sugar balance, and his or her body has too much blood sugar and not enough insulin.

Usually, diabetes occurs when the pancreas begins to become resistant to releasing insulin because of lifestyle factors, such as eating a high-fat diet. Sometimes, though, a person is born with diabetes and will live his or her entire life without having the natural insulin needed.

Type I Diabetes

You may have a friend or family member who has dealt with diabetes for his or her entire life. This would be considered Type I diabetes, and it is genetic. It occurs when a person's pancreas does not work correctly from birth. Due to this, the person must take insulin therapy every day. Type I diabetes will be with that person forever. Weight, despite common belief, does not matter. He or she can be thin or obese.

Type II Diabetes

There are countless people who lead normal lives and, after many years, find that their pancreas begins to change the amount of insulin it releases into the blood to keep the insulin/sugar balance correct or that the body becomes resistant to the insulin secreted by the pancreas. This is Type II diabetes. While doctors and scientists do not know exactly why the pancreas may change secretion amounts or why the body becomes resistant to insulin, many experts have a strong belief that there is a genetic predisposition involved (a hereditary factor). This basically means that, if your mother or your father's mother (your paternal grandmother) has Type II diabetes, there is a much greater chance that you could have this condition at some point in your life. Due to this hereditary factor, you would most likely have a greater chance than someone who has never had a family member suffer from Type II diabetes.

Gestational Diabetes

Another form of diabetes is gestational diabetes, which occurs when women develop diabetes during pregnancy. Like Type II diabetes, there is no known cause, but scientists strongly believe that this form of diabetes is due to hormones in the unborn baby's placenta blocking the release of insulin from the mother's pancreas. Over the course of the pregnancy, there is an imbalance between the insulin and sugar in the blood of the mother. Gestational diabetes will normally occur during the second or third trimester of pregnancy. This condition can harm the mother and child if not properly treated with diet modification until the baby is delivered.

After the baby is delivered, the gestational diabetes will normally disappear; however, it has been found that if you had gestational diabetes during your first pregnancy, you have a 66% greater chance of developing this condition with future pregnancies than mothers who never had diabetes. The best method of prevention in such cases is to begin a healthy diet and exercise routine for you and your unborn baby as soon as possible. It will not completely eliminate your chances of getting gestational diabetes again but will help you ensure the best health possible for you and your unborn baby.

Diabetes Treatment and Prevention

A healthy diet and exercise routine is an important part of treatment for all types of diabetes. Normally, in the case of Type I diabetes, a person will have to take some form of insulin therapy, because that person was born with a pancreas that does not function properly at all. There is nothing he or she can do about it. Usually, Type I diabetics give themselves insulin shots every day and monitor their sugar levels with glucose monitors several times a day to make sure they are keeping their insulin/sugar balance in a normal range. There are cases in which a person can no longer successfully control Type I diabetes with insulin shots and will need to have an insulin pump installed to make the administration of the medication much easier and less painful. This is a small surgical procedure, but its benefits are long-lasting.

Diabetes Insulin Pump

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