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.
Although some people with this type of diabetes are thin, the majority of people (90%) are overweight. Losing weight, even 2 kg to 5 kg (5 lbs to 10 lbs) can help lower blood glucose levels. For many people, following a healthy diet and an exercise program may be all that is needed to help control glucose levels. For others, healthy eating and exercise alone aren't enough to lower blood glucose levels.
Over recent decades, and particularly in the past five years, researchers have found dozens of genes with links to diabetes. The count stands at about 50 genes for type 1 and 38 for type 2. The numbers have risen quickly in recent years because of advances in the gene-sequencing technology used to conduct genome-wide association studies. This technique involves taking the genetic compositions of a group of people with a disease and comparing them en masse to the genomes of people who don't have the disease.
Your risk for Type 2 diabetes increases as you get older. It also increases if you smoke. Although smoking doesn't cause diabetes per se, the negative effects on your health are enough to make it more likely that Type 2 diabetes will occur if you have the other risk factors. "We try to be aggressive with smoking cessation, in particular in patients with diabetes," says Dr. Asha M. Thomas, an endocrinologist with Sinai Hospital of Baltimore.
Diabetes can also be diagnosed if a blood glucose level taken any time of the day without regards to meals is 11.1 mmol/L or higher, plus you have symptoms characteristic of diabetes (e.g., increase thirst, increase urination, unexplained weight loss). A doctor may also examine the eyes for signs of damage to the blood vessels of the retina (back of the eye). Finally, diabetes mellitus is diagnosed if the 3-month cumulative blood sugar average test, known as hemoglobin A1C or glycated hemoglobin, is 6.5% or higher.
Type 2 diabetes is typically a chronic disease associated with a ten-year-shorter life expectancy. This is partly due to a number of complications with which it is associated, including: two to four times the risk of cardiovascular disease, including ischemic heart disease and stroke; a 20-fold increase in lower limb amputations, and increased rates of hospitalizations. In the developed world, and increasingly elsewhere, type 2 diabetes is the largest cause of nontraumatic blindness and kidney failure. It has also been associated with an increased risk of cognitive dysfunction and dementia through disease processes such as Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia. Other complications include acanthosis nigricans, sexual dysfunction, and frequent infections.
Studies show that good control of blood sugar levels decreases the risk of complications from diabetes. Patients with better control of blood sugar have reduced rates of diabetic eye disease, kidney disease, and nerve disease. It is important for patients to measure their measuring blood glucose levels. Hemoglobin A1c can also be measured with a blood test and gives information about average blood glucose over the past 3 months.
Often people don't experience symptoms of diabetes until their blood sugars are very high. Symptoms of diabetes include: increased thirst, increased urination, increased hunger, extreme fatigues, numbness and tingling in the extremities (hands and feet), cuts and wounds that are slow to heal, and blurred vision. Some people also experience other less common symptoms including weight loss, dry itchy skin, increased yeast infections, erectile dysfunction, and acanthosis nigricans (thick, "velvety" patches found in the folds or creases of skin, such as the neck, that is indicative of insulin resistance).
There are two main kinds of diabetes: type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes. More than 90% of all people with diabetes have type 2. Overall, more than 3 million Canadians have diabetes, and the number is rapidly rising. Over a third of people with type 2 diabetes are unaware they have the disease and are not receiving the required treatment because, for many people, early symptoms are not noticeable without testing.
Maturity onset diabetes of the young (MODY) is a rare autosomal dominant inherited form of diabetes, due to one of several single-gene mutations causing defects in insulin production. It is significantly less common than the three main types. The name of this disease refers to early hypotheses as to its nature. Being due to a defective gene, this disease varies in age at presentation and in severity according to the specific gene defect; thus there are at least 13 subtypes of MODY. People with MODY often can control it without using insulin.
Type 1 diabetes occurs because the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas (beta cells) are damaged. In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas makes little or no insulin, so sugar cannot get into the body's cells for use as energy. People with type 1 diabetes must use insulin injections to control their blood glucose. Type 1 is the most common form of diabetes in people who are under age 30, but it can occur at any age. Ten percent of people with diabetes are diagnosed with type 1.
Diabetes can also result from other hormonal disturbances, such as excessive growth hormone production (acromegaly) and Cushing's syndrome. In acromegaly, a pituitary gland tumor at the base of the brain causes excessive production of growth hormone, leading to hyperglycemia. In Cushing's syndrome, the adrenal glands produce an excess of cortisol, which promotes blood sugar elevation.
The beta cells may be another place where gene-environment interactions come into play, as suggested by the previously mentioned studies that link beta cell genes with type 2. "Only a fraction of people with insulin resistance go on to develop type 2 diabetes," says Shulman. If beta cells can produce enough insulin to overcome insulin resistance, a factor that may be genetically predetermined, then a person can stay free of diabetes. But if the beta cells don't have good genes propping them up, then diabetes is the more likely outcome in a person with substantial insulin resistance.
A study by Mayer-Davis et al indicated that between 2002 and 2012, the incidence of type 1 and type 2 diabetes mellitus saw a significant rise among youths in the United States. According to the report, after the figures were adjusted for age, sex, and race or ethnic group, the incidence of type 1 (in patients aged 0-19 years) and type 2 diabetes mellitus (in patients aged 10-19 years) during this period underwent a relative annual increase of 1.8% and 4.8%, respectively. The greatest increases occurred among minority youths. 
Glucagon is a hormone that causes the release of glucose from the liver (for example, it promotes gluconeogenesis). Glucagon can be lifesaving and every patient with diabetes who has a history of hypoglycemia (particularly those on insulin) should have a glucagon kit. Families and friends of those with diabetes need to be taught how to administer glucagon, since obviously the patients will not be able to do it themselves in an emergency situation. Another lifesaving device that should be mentioned is very simple; a medic-alert bracelet should be worn by all patients with diabetes.
Lifestyle factors are important to the development of type 2 diabetes, including obesity and being overweight (defined by a body mass index of greater than 25), lack of physical activity, poor diet, stress, and urbanization. Excess body fat is associated with 30% of cases in those of Chinese and Japanese descent, 60–80% of cases in those of European and African descent, and 100% of cases in Pima Indians and Pacific Islanders. Among those who are not obese, a high waist–hip ratio is often present. Smoking appears to increase the risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus.
Rates of diabetes in 1985 were estimated at 30 million, increasing to 135 million in 1995 and 217 million in 2005. This increase is believed to be primarily due to the global population aging, a decrease in exercise, and increasing rates of obesity. The five countries with the greatest number of people with diabetes as of 2000 are India having 31.7 million, China 20.8 million, the United States 17.7 million, Indonesia 8.4 million, and Japan 6.8 million. It is recognized as a global epidemic by the World Health Organization.
In patients with type 2 diabetes, stress, infection, and medications (such as corticosteroids) can also lead to severely elevated blood sugar levels. Accompanied by dehydration, severe blood sugar elevation in patients with type 2 diabetes can lead to an increase in blood osmolality (hyperosmolar state). This condition can worsen and lead to coma (hyperosmolar coma). A hyperosmolar coma usually occurs in elderly patients with type 2 diabetes. Like diabetic ketoacidosis, a hyperosmolar coma is a medical emergency. Immediate treatment with intravenous fluid and insulin is important in reversing the hyperosmolar state. Unlike patients with type 1 diabetes, patients with type 2 diabetes do not generally develop ketoacidosis solely on the basis of their diabetes. Since in general, type 2 diabetes occurs in an older population, concomitant medical conditions are more likely to be present, and these patients may actually be sicker overall. The complication and death rates from hyperosmolar coma is thus higher than in diabetic ketoacidosis.
In this health topic, we explain the dangers of hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar levels, and diabetes. Hyperglycemia causes many of the warning signs of diabetes listed above. Hyperglycemia may be caused by skipping or forgetting your insulin or diabetes medicine, eating too many grams of carbs for the amount of insulin administered, simply eating too many grams of carbs in general, or from stress or infections.