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Breaking down diabetes: Written by Lauren Jones, MS, Dietetic Intern at MCH
November 19, 2013
Diabetes Mellitus is a chronic disease that is characterized by a person having too much sugar, or glucose, in their blood. This occurs when the body no longer produces or improperly uses a hormone called insulin. Insulin is important because it helps move the sugar in the blood into cells and keeps blood sugar levels in the normal range. Without insulin, the cells cannot get the sugar they need to maintain normal health.
There are two different types of diabetes, Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 diabetes is where the body doesn’t make any insulin. No insulin means that sugar cannot get into the cells and will remain in the blood, causing high blood sugar levels. Insulin injections or insulin pumps are necessary for individuals with this type of diabetes to help sugar get into the cells and lower blood sugar levels. Typically, people diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes are under the age of 30.
With Type 2 diabetes, the body makes some insulin, but not enough or does not work properly. When there is not enough insulin to move sugar from the blood into the cells, blood sugar levels go up. People with this type of diabetes may need to take diabetes medication and/or insulin to help manage their blood sugars. Type 2 diabetes is more common in adults, but the amount of children and young people with it is increasing.
While there is no cure for diabetes, it can and should be treated. Eating healthy foods in the right amounts, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and low-fat dairy products, and exercising on a regular basis will help lower and maintain blood sugars. Monitoring carbohydrate intake is also important because our body turns carbs into sugar. This does not mean that carbs need to be avoided completely, but spread throughout the day to maintain normal blood sugar levels.
Signs and symptoms of diabetes include tired or sleepy a lot, needing to urinate often, numb or tingling hands or feet, wounds that won’t heal, blurry vision, sudden weight loss, hungry all the time, and always thirsty. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms or have any further questions, contact your doctor or a registered dietitian.