By Lindsey Craun, Clinical Trials of Texas, Inc.
SAN ANTONIO - Diabetes is one of the most common diseases in America, but according to the American Diabetes Association, as many as seven million cases remain undiagnosed. Could you be diabetic? Here you’ll find one explanation of this complicated disease so you can take the necessary precautions to protect your health and wellness.
What is diabetes?
First, lets start with the basic definition of diabetes mellitus. This term refers to the diseases that affect blood glucose levels and how it’s used in the body. Blood glucose, or blood sugar, is one of the main sources of energy for the cells in your body that allow for brain function and growth of muscles and tissues. Diabetics have too much glucose in their blood, which results in a variety of health problems.
High blood sugar occurs for two reasons. Those who suffer from Type 1 diabetes do not produce enough insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas. In the average person, after eating, your body releases insulin from the pancreas into the bloodstream. The hormone then allows cells to absorb the sugars from your blood. Thus, when our bodies don’t produce enough insulin, sugar builds up in the bloodstream. Type 1 diabetes is typically the result of a congenital immune deficiency, where harmful bacteria target insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.
In Type 2 diabetes, cells gradually build a resistance to insulin’s power to aid in sugar absorption. Eventually the pancreas cannot secrete enough insulin to overpower this resistance, and blood-glucose levels rise as a result. Unhealthy diet, obesity and lifestyle are often the cause of Type 2.
The onset of Type 1 is sudden, severe, and typically during adolescence. Those with Type 2 diabetes, which is usually preventable, may experience a gradual onset of symptoms at any age. Both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetics experience similar symptoms, including extreme thirst and hunger, frequent urination, weight loss, fatigue, high blood pressure, blurred vision, frequent infections, slow-healing sores and wounds, and ketones in the urine, which occurs when your body burns fat for energy instead of glucose.
Who’s at greater risk?
The cause for Type 1 diabetes is unclear, but most believe it’s due to genetic factors. Those with a parent or sibling with diabetes are more likely to develop the disease. Other factors like immune deficiencies, low vitamin D consumption, and early exposure to cow’s milk have been linked to the development of Type 1 diabetes.
The risk factors for Type 2 diabetes are more concrete, controllable and preventable. Because insulin resistance is caused by excess fatty tissue, people who are overweight, unhealthy and/or inactive are at high risk of developing diabetes. Having a parent or sibling with Type 2 diabetes increases the risk, as well as age. Though Type 2 diabetes development grows more likely with age, it has become increasingly prevalent in children and adolescents.
Long-Term Health Complications
Having high blood sugar over an extended period of time can lead to many serious health problems, and the longer you suffer from diabetes, the greater your risk for developing other complications. Diabetes has been known to cause severe damage to the kidneys, eyes and nerves throughout the body. Diabetic neuropathy causes pain and tingling of the feet, progressing to numbness. People with diabetes have a higher incidence of heart attack and stroke.
Type 1 patients are usually tested for high blood sugar at the first, sudden onset of symptoms. But because Type 2 symptoms appear more gradually, the American Diabetes Association recommends certain people be tested. Those who are overweight or have a body mass index (BMI) over 25 who also have additional risk factors such as unhealthy lifestyle, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or history of heart disease, should be tested.
Diabetics must constantly monitor their blood glucose level with frequent testing to ensure they stay within the target range. Type 1 diabetics are insulin-dependent, meaning they must use an insulin pump or receive insulin injections to treat their condition. Insulin therapy may be used to treat certain cases of Type 2 diabetes as well, but most are advised to adjust their diet and exercise plan and take oral medication to control blood sugar levels. No matter what type you have, healthy eating and regular exercise are effective ways to manage your diabetes. It’s important for people with diabetes to understand that exercise alone helps the cells in your body utilize glucose as energy.
Could you be at risk?
Clinical Trials of Texas offers a free diabetes health screening
where patients receive a free exam from a board-certified physician with no insurance necessary. Services provided include blood pressure, height, weight and BMI measurement, along with blood testing and a diabetic neuropathy assessment. In addition to the free health screening, Clinical Trials of Texas, Inc. has several research studies for those who are diagnosed with diabetes, however there is no obligation to be in a study to receive the health screening. Please visit SAresearch.com
, or call (210) 949-0122 for more information and to see if you qualify.