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Understanding Diabetes -- the Basics

Diabetes, the most common disorder of the endocrine (hormone) system, occurs when blood sugar levels in the body consistently stay above normal. It affects more than 25 million people in the U.S. alone.

Diabetes is a disease brought on by either the body's inability to make insulin (type 1 diabetes) or by the body not responding to the effects of insulin (type 2 diabetes). It can also appear during pregnancy. Insulin is one of the main hormones that regulates blood sugar levels and allows the body to use sugar (called glucose) for energy. Talk with your doctor about the different types of diabetes and your risk for this disease.

Understanding Diabetes

Pre-Diabetes

In the U.S., 79 million people over age 20 have blood sugar levels that are higher than normal, but not high enough to be classified as diabetes. This is known as pre-diabetes, or impaired glucose tolerance. While people with pre-diabetes usually have no symptoms, it’s almost always present before a person develops type 2 diabetes. However, complications normally associated with diabetes, such as heart disease, can begin to develop even when a person has only pre-diabetes.

Once type 2 diabetes develops, symptoms include unusual thirst, a frequent need to urinate, blurred vision, or extreme fatigue -- or there may be no symptoms. Talk to your doctor to see if you need to be tested for pre-diabetes. By identifying the signs of pre-diabetes before diabetes occurs, you may be able to prevent type 2 diabetes and lower your risk of complications associated with this condition, such as heart disease.

 

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes occurs because the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas (called beta cells) are destroyed by the immune system. People with type 1 diabetes produce no insulin and must use insulin injections to control their blood sugar.

Type 1 diabetes most commonly starts in people under the age of 20, but may occur at any age.

For more detail, see WebMD's article Type 1 Diabetes.

WebMD Medical Reference

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If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

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