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Diabetes as serious health concern

May 20, 2010, 11:59 AM

Diabetes is a disorder of metabolism - the way the body uses digested food for growth and energy. Most of the food we eat is broken down into glucose in the form of sugar in the blood. Glucose is the main source of fuel for the body.

After digestion, glucose passes into the bloodstream, where it is used by cells for growth and energy. For glucose to get into cells, insulin must be present. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas, a large gland behind the stomach.

When people eat, the pancreas automatically produces the right amount of insulin to move glucose from blood into the cells. In people with diabetes, however, the pancreas either produces little or no insulin, or the cells do not respond appropriately to the insulin that is produced. Glucose builds up in the blood, overflows into the urine, and passes out of the body in the urine. Thus, the body loses its main source of fuel even though the blood contains large amounts of glucose.

We learnt that there are three main types of diabetes namely: type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune disease. An auto-immune disease results when the body's system for fighting infection - the immune system - turns against a part of the body. In diabetes, the immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. The pancreas then produces little or no insulin. A person who has Type 1 diabetes must take insulin daily to live.

The most common form of diabetes is Type 2 diabetes. About 90 to 95 percent of people with diabetes have Type 2. This form of diabetes is most often associated with older age, obesity, family history of diabetes, previous history of gestational diabetes, physical inactivity, and certain ethnicities. About 80 percent of people with Type 2 diabetes are overweight.

Some women develop gestational diabetes late in pregnancy. Although this form of diabetes usually disappears after the birth of the baby, women who have had gestational diabetes have a 40 to 60 percent chance of developing Type 2 diabetes within 5 to 10 years. Maintaining a reasonable body weight and being physically active may help prevent development of Type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes is widely recognised as one of the leading causes of death and disability in places like the United States.

Diabetes is associated with long-term complications that affect almost every part of the body. The disease often leads to blindness, heart and blood vessel disease, stroke, kidney failure, amputations, and nerve damage. Uncontrolled diabetes can complicate pregnancy, and birth defects are more common in babies born to women with diabetes.

Today, healthy eating, physical activity, and taking insulin are the basic therapies for Type 1 diabetes. The amount of insulin must be balanced with food intake and daily activities. Doctors may also prescribe another type of injectable medicine. Blood glucose levels must be closely monitored through frequent blood glucose checking.

Healthy eating, physical activity, and blood glucose testing are the basic management tools for Type 2 diabetes. In addition, many people with Type 2 diabetes require one or more diabetes medicines - pills, insulin, and other injectable medicine - to control their blood glucose levels.

People with diabetes must take responsibility for their day-to-day care. Much of the daily care involves keeping blood glucose levels from going too low or too high.

People with diabetes should see a healthcare provider who will help them learn to manage their diabetes, and who will monitor their diabetes control.

The goal of diabetes management is to keep levels of blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol as close to the normal range as safely possible.