|A DIABETES PRIMER
Diabetes affects the bodys ability to make or use insulin the essential hormone necessary to move glucose (or blood sugar) into the cells, needed to energize the body. With too much sugar accumulating in the blood, organs, nerves and blood vessels suffer serious damage. There are two types of diabetes:
Type 1 diabetes (formerly known as juvenile-onset diabetes) primarily strikes adolescents and young adults. In this relatively rare autoimmune disease, the body attacks the beta cells that produce insulin. The hormone must therefore be taken by injection. Type 1 diabetes affects less than 0.5 percent of the population.
The more common Type 2 diabetes (formerly known as adult-onset diabetes) is a metabolic disorder involving the production and use of insulin. Beta cells continue to make insulin, but the body somehow becomes resistant to the hormone. Insulin resistance takes a toll on the pancreas, the organ that secretes insulin. For reasons scientists dont yet understand, the overtaxed beta cells can wear out over time, resulting in an insulin production slowdown. A lifelong condition, Type 2 diabetes can lead to serious kidney disease, blindness, leg amputations and cardiovascular disease. Currently incurable, it can be controlled through diet and exercise, and sometimes through injections. It represents 90 percent of all diabetes cases.
A third kind of diabetes is found in pregnant women. In gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM), blood-sugar levels rise during pregnancy. Because glucose levels usually return to normal after delivery, GDM is considered a temporary condition. However, USC researchers have shown that half of affected women will develop Type 2 diabetes within five years.
Worried that you might be at risk? Heres a checklist of diabetes symptoms.
Type 1 diabetes:
Unusual weight loss
Type 2 diabetes *
Any Type 1 symptoms
Cuts or bruises that are slow to heal
Tingling or numbness in the hands or feet
Recurring skin, gum or bladder infections
* Type 2 diabetes patients often display no symptoms.