What is diabetes?

Diabetes refers to a group of diseases that affect your body’s use of blood sugar (glucose). Glucose is essential to your health because it is the brain’s main source of fuel and it provides energy to the cells that make up your tissues and muscles. There are 2 types of diabetes, but regardless of the type, these diseases result from excessive sugar in the blood. Type 1 usually develops at young age (though it can develop at any age) and occurs when the pancreas produces little to no insulin. Type 2 can also develop at any age, but it is more common among people who are 40 or older.

What are the signs and symptoms?

Your symptoms will depend on how much your blood sugar is elevated. With type 1 diabetes, symptoms are known to develop quickly and are much more severe. Some of the most common symptoms for both types include:

  • Frequent urination
  • Increased thirst
  • Extreme hunger
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Blurred vision
  • Frequent infections (of the gums, skin or vagina)

If you or your child experiences any of these symptoms, see a doctor as soon as possible. The earlier this condition is diagnosed, the sooner the treatments can begin.

What are the causes?

Since glucose plays a major role in this condition, it is important to understand how it works in our bodies. The pancreas secretes insulin into the bloodstream, and as insulin circulates, it enables sugar to enter your cells. Insulin is what lowers the amount of sugar in your bloodstream and as your blood sugar drops, so does the secretion of insulin from the pancreas. Our bodies get glucose from food, but it is also created and stored by the liver. If you haven’t eaten in a while, your glucose levels will be low and your liver will work to break down the stored glycogen into glucose so that your body maintains normal levels.

The cause of type 1 diabetes is not known as this time, but it is thought be caused by genetic and environmental factors. With this type, your immune system will attack and destroy insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Type 2 diabetes and prediabetes are also thought to be caused by environmental and genetic factors. With this type, your cells will resist insulin’s actions and your pancreas cannot produce enough insulin to overcome this resistance. Sugar then builds up in the bloodstream, instead of moving to the cells for energy.

What are the risk factors?

Risk factors for type 1 include:

  • Environmental factors, such as exposure to viral illnesses
  • Family history (your risk is increased if a family member has type 1 diabetes)
  • The presence of damaging immune system cells in the body (autoantibodies)

The risk factors for type 2 include:

  • Fatty tissue in the body
  • Inactivity
  • Family history
  • Age (40+)
  • High blood pressure
  • Abnormal cholesterol and triglyceride (a type of fat) levels
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (characterized by irregular periods, obesity and excessive hair growth)

Unfortunately, type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented but there are steps you can take to prevent type 2. These steps include eating healthy, routine physical activity and a loss of weight if you are overweight.

Schedule an appointment in Fairbanks, Alaska

The best way to manage diabetes, as well as your overall health, is to eat healthy and get plenty of exercise. Dr. Nick Sarrimanolis understands that those steps are usually easier said than done. Sometimes, we need help maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Dr. Sarrimanolis and staff provide weight management services to help our patients manage their diabetes and improve their overall health.* To learn more, request an appointment online or give us a call at (907) 451-1174.

*Individual results may vary; not a guarantee.

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