Conversations About Conditions: Diabetes

Conversations About Conditions: Diabetes

Diabetes is a serious condition and takes a lot of work to manage, but knowledge is empowering. However, finding that knowledge can be tough. There are so many resources online, and it’s hard to know which resources are the most trustworthy. That’s where Medly comes in. We don’t replace your doctor’s office; we enhance it. With our accurate and up-to-date diabetes information, we make sure you know everything you need to know to take control of your condition and move forward in your life. 

What is diabetes

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), diabetes “is a disease that occurs when your blood glucose, also called blood sugar, is too high.” Blood glucose is your body’s main energy source, and insulin, a hormone the pancreas makes, helps glucose get into your cells for energy. When your body doesn’t make enough insulin or doesn’t use insulin well, glucose then stays in your blood and doesn’t reach your cells.

Symptoms of diabetes include:

  • increased thirst and urination
  • increased hunger
  • fatigue
  • blurred vision
  • numbness or tingling in the feet or hands
  • sores that do not heal
  • unexplained weight loss

Sometimes, the first indication you have that something is wrong is the development of a very serious condition known as diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). Signs of DKA include: 

  • breath that smells fruity
  • dry or flushed skin
  • nausea or vomiting
  • stomach pain
  • trouble breathing
  • trouble paying attention or feeling confused

DKA occurs when blood sugar levels are very high and insulin levels are low. Without insulin, our bodies cannot use the available glucose in the blood as fuel. Because the glucose can’t get into the cells, it builds up, causing high blood sugar levels. 

In response, the body starts breaking down fat into a usable fuel that doesn’t require insulin, a fuel called ketones. When ketones are produced too quickly and build up in blood and urine, they make the blood toxic by making it acidic. This condition can be life-threatening. 

What are the different types of diabetes? 

The first type of diabetes is known as “prediabetes,” which is sometimes precipitated by a condition known as insulin resistance. Insulin resistance occurs when your body doesn’t use insulin well and can’t easily take up glucose from your blood. As a result, your pancreas makes more insulin to help glucose enter your cells. As long as your pancreas creates enough extra insulin, your blood glucose levels will stay in the healthy range.

Prediabetes means your blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not quite at diabetic levels. Prediabetes usually occurs in people who already have some insulin resistance, causing extra glucose to stay in your bloodstream rather than entering your cells. Over time, you could develop type 2 diabetes.

To prevent diabetes, you should lose weight and keep it off, exercise more, and eat healthy foods most of the time. 

Next, there is type 1 diabetes. In most people with type 1 diabetes, the body’s immune system, which normally fights infection, attacks and destroys the cells in the pancreas that make insulin. As a result, your pancreas stops making insulin. Without insulin, glucose can’t get into your cells and your blood glucose rises above normal. People with type 1 diabetes need to take insulin every day to stay alive.

Risk factors for type 1 diabetes include: 

  • Family history. Anyone with a parent or sibling with type 1 diabetes has a slightly increased risk of developing the condition.
  • Genetics. The presence of certain genes indicates an increased risk of developing type 1 diabetes.
  • Geography. The incidence of type 1 diabetes tends to increase as you travel away from the equator.
  • Age. Although type 1 diabetes can appear at any age, it appears at two noticeable peaks. The first peak occurs in children between 4 and 7 years old, and the second is in children between 10 and 14 years old.

Then there is type 2 diabetes. In type 2 diabetes, your body doesn’t make enough insulin or doesn’t use insulin well. Too much glucose then stays in your blood, and not enough reaches your cells. Risk factors include:

  • Being overweight or obese
  • Being physically inactive
  • Insulin resistance
  • Genes and family history 

There is also gestational diabetes. Because of changes in your body during pregnancy, your body develops insulin resistance. When your body can’t produce enough insulin to overcome this, you develop gestational diabetes. 

Finally, there are monogenic types of diabetes, which result from mutations or changes in a single gene. Neonatal diabetes mellitus (NDM) and maturity-onset diabetes of the young (MODY) are the two main forms of monogenic diabetes. 

How common is diabetes? 

According to the NIDDK, “As of 2015, 30.3 million people in the United States, or 9.4 percent of the population, had diabetes. More than 1 in 4 of them didn’t know they had the disease. Diabetes affects 1 in 4 people over the age of 65. About 90-95 percent of cases in adults are type 2 diabetes.” 


For further information about this disorder, please refer to the following list of resources:

  • American Diabetes Association
  • Centers for Disease Control: Division of Diabetes Translation
  • Lilly Diabetes
  • American Association of Diabetes Educators
  • Beyond Type 1
  • Beyond Type 2
  • American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists
  • Diabetes Advocacy Alliance
  • Juvenile Diabetes Foundation International
  • National Kidney Foundation
  • National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
  • Defeat Diabetes Foundation
  • Health People Community Preventive Health Institute: Diabetes Is Done Initiative
  • Montefiore Medical Center Clinical Diabetes Center
  • Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
  • MyFoodAdvisor: Recipes for Healthy Living
  • Diabetes Forecast: The Healthy Living Magazine
  • Children’s Diabetes Foundation
  • The diaTribe Foundation
  • DiabetesSisters
  • Diabetes Hands Foundation
  • The Diabetes Research Institute Foundation 
  • Joslin Diabetes Center
  • Taking Control of Your Diabetes
  • Diabetes Research & Wellness Foundation

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