Insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus is believed to result from autoimmune, environmental, and/or genetic factors. Whatever the cause, the end result is destruction of insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells, a dramatic decrease in the secretion of insulin, and hyperglycemia. Non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus is presumably heterogeneous in origin. It is associated with older age, obesity, a family history of diabetes, and ethnicity (genetic components). The vast majority of those with non-insulin-dependent diabetes are overweight Kahn (2003). This form of the disorder has a much slower rate of progression than insulin-dependent diabetes. Over time the ability to respond to insulin decreases, resulting in increased levels of blood glucose. The pancreatic secretion of insulin increases in an attempt to compensate for the elevated levels of glucose. If the condition is untreated, the pancreatic production of insulin decreases and may even cease.
Clear evidence suggests a genetic component in type 1 diabetes mellitus. Monozygotic twins have a 60% lifetime concordance for developing type 1 diabetes mellitus, although only 30% do so within 10 years after the first twin is diagnosed. In contrast, dizygotic twins have only an 8% risk of concordance, which is similar to the risk among other siblings.
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).

If, on the other hand, you are already starting to develop complications or your medication regimen has changed because your blood sugars are getting higher, remember that diabetes is a progressive disease—and sometimes these things just happen without any influence from your own actions. As you age, beta cells in the pancreas get tired and stop working. If you've had diabetes for 20 years and now need to start insulin, for example, it doesn't mean you've failed. It just means that your body needs some help. Make sure you continue to receive education and that you continue to have someone to lean on when you need it, and keep the lines of communication open with your doctor. It truly can make a difference.
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.
The 1989 "St. Vincent Declaration"[117][118] was the result of international efforts to improve the care accorded to those with diabetes. Doing so is important not only in terms of quality of life and life expectancy but also economically – expenses due to diabetes have been shown to be a major drain on health – and productivity-related resources for healthcare systems and governments.
Diabetes also can cause heart disease and stroke, as well as other long-term complications, including eye problems, kidney disease, nerve damage, and gum disease. While these problems don't usually show up in kids or teens who've had type 2 diabetes for only a few years, they can affect them in adulthood, particularly if their diabetes isn't well controlled.
Diabetes mellitus is linked with an increased risk of heart attacks, strokes, poor blood circulation to the legs and damage to the eyes, feet and kidneys. Early diagnosis and strict control of blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels can help to prevent or delay these complications associated with diabetes. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle (regular exercise, eating healthily and maintaining a healthy weight) is important in reducing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
A chronic metabolic disorder in which the use of carbohydrate is impaired and that of lipid and protein is enhanced. It is caused by an absolute or relative deficiency of insulin and is characterized, in more severe cases, by chronic hyperglycemia, glycosuria, water and electrolyte loss, ketoacidosis, and coma. Long-term complications include neuropathy, retinopathy, nephropathy, generalized degenerative changes in large and small blood vessels, and increased susceptibility to infection.
Insulin Therapy. Exogenous insulin is given to patients with diabetes mellitus as a supplement to the insufficient amount of endogenous insulin that they produce. In some cases, this must make up for an absolute lack of insulin from the pancreas. Exogenous insulin is available in various types. It must be given by injection, usually subcutaneously, and because it is a potent drug, the dosage must be measured meticulously. Commonly, regular insulin, which is a fast-acting insulin with a short span of action, is mixed with one of the longer-acting insulins and both types are administered in one injection.

Occasionally, a child with hypoglycemic coma may not recover within 10 minutes, despite appropriate therapy. Under no circumstances should further treatment be given, especially intravenous glucose, until the blood glucose level is checked and still found to be subnormal. Overtreatment of hypoglycemia can lead to cerebral edema and death. If coma persists, seek other causes.
Infections. Poorly controlled diabetes can lead to a variety of tissue infections. The most commonly encountered is a yeast infection (Candida) and the presence of dry mouth further increases one’s risk (see PATIENT INFORMATION SHEET – Oral Yeast Infections). Typically, affected areas appear redder than the surrounding tissue and commonly affected sites include the tongue, palate, cheeks, gums, or corners of the mouth (see Right). There is conflicting data regarding cavity risk in the diabetic patient, but those who have dry mouth are clearly at increased risk for developing cavities.
Type 2 diabetes, the most common type of diabetes, is a disease that occurs when your blood glucose, also called blood sugar, is too high. Blood glucose is your main source of energy and comes mainly from the food you eat. Insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas, helps glucose get into your cells to be used for energy. 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.

To understand why insulin is important, it helps to know more about how the body uses food for energy. Your body is made up of millions of cells. To make energy, these cells need food in a very simple form. When you eat or drink, much of the food is broken down into a simple sugar called "glucose." Then, glucose is transported through the bloodstream to these cells where it can be used to provide the energy the body needs for daily activities.


John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.
Insulin is released into the blood by beta cells (β-cells), found in the islets of Langerhans in the pancreas, in response to rising levels of blood glucose, typically after eating. Insulin is used by about two-thirds of the body's cells to absorb glucose from the blood for use as fuel, for conversion to other needed molecules, or for storage. Lower glucose levels result in decreased insulin release from the beta cells and in the breakdown of glycogen to glucose. This process is mainly controlled by the hormone glucagon, which acts in the opposite manner to insulin.[61]
The body obtains glucose from three main sources: the intestinal absorption of food; the breakdown of glycogen (glycogenolysis), the storage form of glucose found in the liver; and gluconeogenesis, the generation of glucose from non-carbohydrate substrates in the body.[60] Insulin plays a critical role in balancing glucose levels in the body. Insulin can inhibit the breakdown of glycogen or the process of gluconeogenesis, it can stimulate the transport of glucose into fat and muscle cells, and it can stimulate the storage of glucose in the form of glycogen.[60]
Glucose in your body can cause yeast infections. This is because glucose speeds the growth of fungus. There are over-the-counter and prescription medications to treat yeast infections. You can potentially avoid yeast infections by maintaining better control of your blood sugar. Take insulin as prescribed, exercise regularly, reduce your carb intake, choose low-glycemic foods, and monitor your blood sugar.
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