Diabetes mellitus is a diagnostic term for a group of disorders characterized by abnormal glucose homeostasis resulting in elevated blood sugar. There is variability in its manifestations, wherein some individuals have only asymptomatic glucose intolerance, while others present acutely with diabetic ketoacidosis, and still others develop chronic complications such as nephropathy, neuropathy, retinopathy, or accelerated atherosclerosis. It is among the most common of chronic disorders, affecting up to 5–10% of the adult population of the Western world. Its prevalence varies over the globe, with certain populations, including some American Indian tribes and the inhabitants of Micronesia and Polynesia, having extremely high rates of diabetes (1,2). The prevalence of diabetes is increasing dramatically and it has been estimated that the worldwide prevalence will increase by more than 50% between the years 2000 and 2030 (3).
Janis McWilliams, RN, MSN, CDE, BC-ADM, responds: Yes, in type 1 diabetes in particular, the onset of symptoms like frequent urination and extreme thirst can be very sudden. In type 2 diabetes, the symptoms tend to come about more gradually, and sometimes there are no signs at all. People who have symptoms should contact their health care provider immediately for an accurate diagnosis. Keep in mind that these symptoms could signal other problems, too.
Regarding age, data shows that for each decade after 40 years of age regardless of weight there is an increase in incidence of diabetes. The prevalence of diabetes in persons 65 years of age and older is around 25%. Type 2 diabetes is also more common in certain ethnic groups. Compared with a 7% prevalence in non-Hispanic Caucasians, the prevalence in Asian Americans is estimated to be 8.0%, in Hispanics 13%, in blacks around 12.3%, and in certain Native American communities 20% to 50%. Finally, diabetes occurs much more frequently in women with a prior history of diabetes that develops during pregnancy (gestational diabetes).
DKA usually follows increasing hyperglycemia and symptoms of osmotic diuresis. Users of insulin pumps, by virtue of absent reservoirs of subcutaneous insulin, may present with ketosis and more normal blood glucose levels. They are more likely to present with nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain, symptoms similar to food poisoning. DKA may manifest as respiratory distress.
As part of proper diabetes management, it is important to be aware of the symptoms of abnormal blood glucose levels and know how to properly monitor your blood glucose levels using a home glucose meter. You should remember to always keep glucose tablets or candies containing sugar with you at all times to manage low blood glucose levels (hypoglycemia). Symptoms of low blood glucose include:
Because type 2 diabetes is linked to high levels of sugar in the blood, it may seem logical to assume that eating too much sugar is the cause of the disease. But of course, it’s not that simple. “This has been around for years, this idea that eating too much sugar causes diabetes — but the truth is, type 2 diabetes is a multifactorial disease with many different types of causes,” says Lynn Grieger, RDN, CDE, a nutrition coach in Prescott, Arizona, and a medical reviewer for Everyday Health. “Type 2 diabetes is really complex.”
Say that two people have the same genetic mutation. One of them eats well, watches their cholesterol, and stays physically fit, and the other is overweight (BMI greater than 25) and inactive. The person who is overweight and inactive is much more likely to develop type 2 diabetes because certain lifestyle choices greatly influence how well your body uses insulin.
These diabetes complications are related to blood vessel diseases and are generally classified into small vessel disease, such as those involving the eyes, kidneys and nerves (microvascular disease), and large vessel disease involving the heart and blood vessels (macrovascular disease). Diabetes accelerates hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) of the larger blood vessels, leading to coronary heart disease (angina or heart attack), strokes, and pain in the lower extremities because of lack of blood supply (claudication).
Along with following your diabetes care plan, you may need diabetes medicines, which may include pills or medicines you inject under your skin, such as insulin. Over time, you may need more than one diabetes medicine to manage your blood glucose. Even if you don’t take insulin, you may need it at special times, such as during pregnancy or if you are in the hospital. You also may need medicines for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or other conditions.
Type 2 DM is characterized by insulin resistance, which may be combined with relatively reduced insulin secretion. The defective responsiveness of body tissues to insulin is believed to involve the insulin receptor. However, the specific defects are not known. Diabetes mellitus cases due to a known defect are classified separately. Type 2 DM is the most common type of diabetes mellitus.
The American Diabetes Association sponsored an international panel in 1995 to review the literature and recommend updates of the classification of diabetes mellitus. The definitions and descriptions that follow are drawn from the Report of the Expert Committee on the Diagnosis and Classification of Diabetes Mellitus. The report was first approved in 1997 and modified in 1999. Although other terms are found in older literature and remain in use, their use in current clinical practice is inappropriate. Epidemiologic and research studies are facilitated by use of a common language.
Finally, modern society should probably shoulder at least some of the blame for the type 2 diabetes epidemic. Access to cheap, calorie-laden foods may even influence type 2 risk beyond simply their effects on body weight; the stuff that is in processed foods, like high-fructose corn syrup, could alter the body's chemistry or gut microbes in a way that affects health. Add to that the fact that most Americans are sedentary, spending their time sitting in cubicles, driving in cars, playing video games, or watching television. The lack of exercise, plus the abundance of unhealthy foods, cultivates a fertile breeding ground for diabetes.
High blood glucose sets up a domino effect of sorts within your body. High blood sugar leads to increased production of urine and the need to urinate more often. Frequent urination causes you to lose a lot of fluid and become dehydrated. Consequently, you develop a dry mouth and feel thirsty more often. If you notice that you are drinking more than usual, or that your mouth often feels dry and you feel thirsty more often, these could be signs of type 2 diabetes.