Important: This content reflects information from various sources and organizations. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.
What is insulin?
Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas to control the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood. Your body needs insulin to transform glucose into energy so you can play, work, study, exercise and enjoy a high quality of life.
People living with diabetes can experience high blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia) or low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia) on occasion due to many factors. Both conditions could lead to medical emergencies. Severe low blood sugar levels can lead to loss of consciousness for example.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes mellitus, or simply diabetes, is a group of metabolic diseases in which a person has high blood sugar, either because the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, or because cells do not respond to the insulin that is produced.
There are three main types of diabetes mellitus (DM).
Type 1 DM results from the body’s failure to produce insulin. This form is often referred to as “juvenile diabetes”.
Type 2 DM results from insulin resistance, a condition in which cells fail to use insulin properly, sometimes combined with an absolute insulin deficiency. This form is often referred to as “adult-onset diabetes” but now is appearing in children as young as eight.
Gestational diabetes occurs when pregnant women without a previous diagnosis of diabetes develop a high blood glucose level.
Other forms of DM include congenital diabetes, which is due to genetic defects of insulin secretion, cystic fibrosis-related diabetes, steroid diabetes induced by high doses of glucocorticoids, and several forms of monogenic diabetes.
Pre-diabetes refers to the condition in which blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be diagnosed as Type 2 diabetes. Not everyone with pre-diabetes will develop Type 2 diabetes.
What are some of the typical symptoms of diabetes?
* Unusual thirst
* Frequent urination
* Weight change (gain or loss)
* Extreme fatigue or lack of energy
* Blurred vision
* Frequent or recurring infections
* Cuts and bruises that are slow to heal
* Tingling or numbness in hands and feet
If you show these signs, you should seek medical attention. These signs can be mild or absent in people with ‘early stage’ Type 2 diabetes. That is one reason why many people do not realize they have diabetes.
Early identification and adequate and timely treatment of diabetes is thus important, as well as blood pressure control and lifestyle factors such as smoking cessation, maintaining a healthy body weight, healthy eating and regular exercise.
It is important to ask your healthcare provider to test you for diabetes. That normally requires a simple ‘blood glucose level’ test which is immediate and involves only a small pin prick.
Serious complications can arise if diabetes of any type is left untreated
Diabetes can increase your risk of:
* Heart disease and stroke
* Kidney disease
* Eye disease and blindness
* Nerve damage and the possibility of amputation
* Erectile dysfunction (impotence)
Can diabetes be cured ?
All forms of diabetes have been treatable since insulin became available in 1921.
Types 1 and 2 are chronic conditions that cannot be cured.
Type 1 diabetes requires the person to inject insulin every day or wear an insulin pump.
Type 2 diabetes may be controlled with medications and/or diet and exercise; in some cases, insulin is used or may become necessary at some point.
Gestational diabetes usually resolves after delivery.