Diabetes is a disease in which a person has a high blood glucose level (blood sugar).

This may be caused by the body not producing enough insulin and/or because the body’s cells do not respond to the body’s insulin.

There are two forms of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2.

Type 1 diabetes makes up approximately 10% of the people diagnosed with diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is caused by the body not producing enough insulin. This type of diabetes is also called juvenile onset or insulin dependent diabetes. People with type 1 diabetes will need to take insulin injections for the rest of their lives. They must also check blood sugar regularly and watch their diets closely.

Type 2 diabetes makes up the other 90 percent of people diagnosed with diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is caused by the body not producing enough insulin or because cells do not react properly to the insulin. This type of diabetes is often called adult onset or non-insulin dependent diabetes. Many people can control this type of diabetes by losing weight, getting plenty of exercise and monitoring diet. Type 2 diabetes will progressively get worse if the above actions are not taken. Overweight people are at highest risk for developing this type of diabetes. Age is also a risk factor for type 2 diabetes. As you get older you are more likely to develop the illness. Medicines and even insulin may be required to control blood glucose levels.

Eight and one-half percent of the US population has diabetes: 25.8 million children and adults. About seven million of these people don’t know they have it yet. Approximately one in 400 kids have type 1 diabetes. Twenty-seven percent of people aged 65 years and older have type 2 diabetes.

Family history of diabetes also plays a strong role in developing diabetes. When you eat, food is broken down into glucose. Glucose is a form of sugar in the body and is used as fuel for the body to grow and maintain itself. Insulin is produced by the pancreas and the insulin binds to glucose and pushes glucose into the cells for them to use it.

After eating, a surge of insulin is made to accommodate the glucose being taken in. With diabetes there is a problem with production of insulin or the cells do not respond to the insulin that is produced. This results in too much glucose in the bloodstream. Too much glucose in the body causes diabetes.

Symptoms of diabetes include frequent urination, thirst and hunger. Infections that would normally heal may take longer when diabetes is present. Fatigue may also be a symptom.

Blood tests may be needed to confirm diabetes in a patient. A hemA1C test measures the three-month average of a person’s glucose and is the best test to determine if you have the illness. Fasting blood glucose test, by a finger stick, may also be easy and is useful to see what your blood sugar is at that moment. Blood sugars below 100 are normal. Blood sugars above 126 may be an early indication of diabetes and more testing maybe necessary.

Many complications may occur in patients with diabetes. Heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, hypertension, vision disturbances and frequent ulcers on the feet may all occur in diabetes.

Two-thirds of diabetics will die prematurely due to a stroke or heart disease. The life expectancy of diabetics is five to 10 years less than that of other people. I will talk about complications of the disease in greater detail in future articles.

Next week’s article will discuss what a diabetic diet is and how to maintain a safe blood glucose level.