Today is World Diabetes Day and November is national diabetes awareness month—did you know that 29 Million Americans are currently living with diabetes? In fact, 1 in 11 people in our country will develop diabetes in their lifetime. In the last decade, the number of cases jumped 50%. World Diabetes day began in 1991 in an effort to draw attention to the alarming rise of diabetes cases throughout the world—there are 350 million people living with diabetes world wide now—-My 15 year old daughter has type one diabetes and was diagnosed at age 5. My family and I have been living with diabetes for ten years. Yes, I said “we” because diabetes does affect the entire family—it changes how we live, eat and play.
So Exactly what is diabetes? What is the difference between type 1 and type 2?
Diabetes is a disease of disordered metabolism and nearly 10% of Americans have diabetes today. It occurs when the body can no longer handle sugars or carbohydrates properly. Diabetes can result in numerous complications including kidney disease, heart disease, peripheral vascular disease and blindness—just to name a few. Diabetes comes in two types. In type one diabetes (T1D), the body no longer makes insulin. Insulin is produced in an organ called the pancreas. T1D is thought to be an autoimmune disorder where our own immune system destroys the cells in the pancreas that make insulin. Insulin is essential to life—when we eat sugars (carbohydrates) we must have insulin in order to move the sugar from the bloodstream into our cells so that it can be used for energy. In diabetes, a lack of insulin results very high blood sugar levels—this can create a medical emergency—including coma and death. Long-term elevation in blood sugars can result in many of the complications listed above. Type 1 diabetes is also known as “juvenile diabetes” or insulin dependent diabetes as it is most commonly diagnosed early in life—typically either from 3-6 years old or in the early teen years. By contrast, in type 2 diabetes (T2D), our cells do not respond properly to insulin. Blood sugar levels rise and we become “insulin resistant.” Patients with type 2 diabetes still produce some amount of insulin but it is often not enough. T2D is most often associated with obesity. Type 2 diabetes accounts for the majority of diabetes cases in the US today.
What are the symptoms of diabetes?
When you have diabetes, you may have some of the following symptoms—most are due to high or low blood sugar levels and the dehydration that can be associated with abnormal blood sugar levels. These are the most common symptoms:
How is diabetes treated?
In patients with type 1 diabetes, insulin therapy is the cornerstone of treatment. These kids need insulin from external sources daily in order to survive. Insulin is delivered via injections several times a day or via an insulin pump. Diabetics must check their blood sugar many times during the day in order to maintain a safe blood sugar level and properly dose insulin throughout the day in response to eating and changes in blood sugar levels. In type 2 diabetes, weight loss and diet can help. Some type 2 patients must take oral pills to help control blood sugar and others also need insulin injections. If you have T2D, your doctor can help determine what treatment is best for you.
So, What’s next in diabetes research? Can it be cured?
Currently, diabetes has no cure . There have been lots of advances in the last several years. We are currently working towards an “artificial pancreas” where we are able to mimic the “closed loop” system that our body has. A new device has recently been approved by the FDA—it is an insulin pump as well as a continuous glucose monitor—ultimately systems like this will allow diabetics (particularly type 1 diabetics) to lead normal lives. As a parent of a child with T1D, I am hopeful that future research in the areas of genomics will lead to a cure. Until then, we must continue to fund research efforts—Today, World Diabetes Day—is a great day to raise awareness and help us find a cure.
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Photo courtesy of Dr Kevin Campbell
Dr Kevin Campbell, MD, FACC is chief medical correspondent for Bold.global. Dr. Campbell is an internationally recognized Cardiologist who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of heart rhythm disorders. Dr. Campbell is the Medical Expert for WNCN and appears weekly on the CBS morning news and also makes frequent appearances nationally on Fox News, CBS, and HLN.