Diabetic neuropathy is probably the most common complication of diabetes. Studies suggest that up to 50% of people with diabetes are affected to some degree. Major risk factors of this condition are the level and duration of elevated blood glucose. Neuropathy can lead to sensory loss and damage to the limbs. It is also a major cause of impotence in diabetic men.
It's not as clear what the rest of the type 1 genes are up to, but researchers are eager to find out. "Even though something accounts for a small part [of the genetic risk], it could have a significant impact," says Stephen Rich, PhD, director of the Center for Public Health Genomics at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. Understanding these genes' role may clue researchers in to less obvious biological pathways involved in type 1 diabetes, and to possible prevention strategies.
Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is much less common than hypoglycemia but is potentially far more serious, creating a life-threatening medical emergency.  Ketosis usually does not occur when insulin is present. In the absence of insulin, however, severe hyperglycemia, dehydration, and ketone production contribute to the development of DKA. The most serious complication of DKA is the development of cerebral edema, which increases the risk of death and long-term morbidity. Very young children at the time of first diagnosis are most likely to develop cerebral edema.
In type 1 diabetes, other symptoms to watch for include unexplained weight loss, lethargy, drowsiness, and hunger. Symptoms sometimes occur after a viral illness. In some cases, a person may reach the point of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) before a type 1 diagnosis is made. DKA occurs when blood glucose is dangerously high and the body can't get nutrients into the cells because of the absence of insulin. The body then breaks down muscle and fat for energy, causing an accumulation of ketones in the blood and urine. Symptoms of DKA include a fruity odor on the breath; heavy, taxed breathing; and vomiting. If left untreated, DKA can result in stupor, unconsciousness, and even death.
What does the research say about proactive type 2 diabetes management? Research shows that proactive management can pay off in fewer complications down the road. In the landmark UKPDS study, 5,102 patients newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes were followed for an average of 10 years to determine whether intensive use of blood glucose-lowering drugs would result in health benefits. Tighter average glucose control (an A1c of 7.0% vs. an A1c of 7.9%) reduced the rate of complications in the eyes, kidneys, and nervous system, by 25%. For every percentage point decrease in A1c (e.g., from 9% to 8%), there was a 25% reduction in diabetes-related deaths, and an 18% reduction in combined fatal and nonfatal heart attacks.
If genetics has taught us anything about diabetes, it's that, for most people, genes aren't the whole story. True, a few rare kinds of diabetes—including those collectively called MODY for maturity-onset diabetes of the young—have been traced to defects in a single gene. But for other types of diabetes, hereditary factors are still not well understood.
In addition to learning about diabetes itself, older people may have to learn how to fit management of diabetes in with their management of other disorders. Learning about how to avoid complications, such as dehydration, skin breakdown, and circulation problems, and to manage factors that can contribute to complications of diabetes, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels, is especially important. Such problems become more common as people age, whether they have diabetes or not.
From a dental perspective, pregnancy leads to hormonal changes that increase the mother’s risk of developing gingivitis and gingival lesions called pregnancy tumors (see Right). Not surprisingly, poor glycemic control further adds to this risk. Therefore, it is imperative that if you become pregnant, you should promptly see your dentist. He or she will work with you to ensure that your dental self-care regimen is maximized to prevent or control your dental disease. Additional Resources on Diabetes and Oral Health National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research www.nidcr.nih.gov American Diabetes Association www.diabetes.org American Dental Association www.dental.org American Academy of Periodontology www.perio.org The Diabetes Monitor www.diabetesmonitor.com David Mendosa www.mendosa.com Diatribe www.diatribe.us The information contained in this monograph is for educational purposes only. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have or suspect you may have a health concern, consult your professional health care provider. Reliance on any information provided in this monograph is solely at your own risk.
“It’s not like you wake up one day and all of a sudden you’re thirsty, hungry, and [going to the bathroom] all the time,” says Melissa Joy Dobbins, RD, a certified diabetes educator in Illinois and a spokesperson for the American Association of Diabetes Educators. “It picks up gradually.” Indeed, “most people are unaware that they have diabetes in its early or even middle phases,” says Aaron Cypess, MD, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and staff physician at Joslin Diabetes Center. Just because you’re not keyed in doesn’t mean you’re immune from problems associated with diabetes, he adds. The longer you go without controlling diabetes, the greater your risk for heart disease, kidney disease, amputation, blindness, and other serious complications. “We recommend that people with risk factors for diabetes, such as a family history or being overweight, get evaluated on a regular basis,” Dr. Cypess says. If you’ve been feeling off, talk to your doctor about getting a simple blood test that can diagnose the disease. And pay attention to these subtle signs and symptoms of diabetes.
Type 1 DM is caused by autoimmune destruction of the insulin-secreting beta cells of the pancreas. The loss of these cells results in nearly complete insulin deficiency; without exogenous insulin, type 1 DM is rapidly fatal. Type 2 DM results partly from a decreased sensitivity of muscle cells to insulin-mediated glucose uptake and partly from a relative decrease in pancreatic insulin secretion.
Type 2 diabetes usually begins with insulin resistance, a condition in which muscle, liver, and fat cells do not use insulin well. As a result, your body needs more insulin to help glucose enter cells. At first, the pancreas makes more insulin to keep up with the added demand. Over time, the pancreas can’t make enough insulin, and blood glucose levels rise.
One of the key factors in Joslin’s treatment of diabetes is tight blood glucose control, so be certain that your treatment helps get your blood glucose readings as close to normal as safely possible. Patients should discuss with their doctors what their target blood glucose range is. It is also important to determine what your goal is for A1C readings (a test that determines how well your diabetes is controlled over the past 2-3 months). By maintaining blood glucose in the desired range, you’ll likely avoid many of the complications some people with diabetes face.
People with type 1 diabetes and certain people with type 2 diabetes may use carbohydrate counting or the carbohydrate exchange system to match their insulin dose to the carbohydrate content of their meal. "Counting" the amount of carbohydrate in a meal is used to calculate the amount of insulin the person takes before eating. However, the carbohydrate-to-insulin ratio (the amount of insulin taken for each gram of carbohydrate in the meal) varies for each person, and people with diabetes need to work closely with a dietician who has experience in working with people with diabetes to master the technique. Some experts have advised use of the glycemic index (a measure of the impact of an ingested carbohydrate-containing food on the blood glucose level) to delineate between rapid and slowly metabolized carbohydrates, although there is little evidence to support this approach.
There is strong evidence that the long-term complications are related to the degree and duration of metabolic disturbances.2 These considerations form the basis of standard and innovative therapeutic approaches to this disease that include newer pharmacologic formulations of insulin, delivery by traditional and more physiologic means, and evolving methods to continuously monitor blood glucose to maintain it within desired limits by linking these features to algorithm-driven insulin delivery pumps for an “artificial pancreas.”
Screening for undiagnosed T2DM is recommended at the first prenatal visit in women with above risk factors, using standard diagnostic method criteria. Screening for gestational diabetes (GDM) at 24-28 wk of gestation is recommended in women who do not have previous history of diabetes, as GDM remains asymptomatic11. A history of GDM carries a high risk for developing diabetes.
Skin care: High blood glucose and poor circulation can lead to skin problems such as slow healing after an injury or frequent infections. Make sure to wash every day with a mild soap and warm water, protect your skin by using sunscreen, take good care of any cuts or scrapes with proper cleansing and bandaging, and see your doctor when cuts heal slowly or if an infection develops.
Clinistix and Diastix are paper strips or dipsticks that change color when dipped in urine. The test strip is compared to a chart that shows the amount of glucose in the urine based on the change in color. The level of glucose in the urine lags behind the level of glucose in the blood. Testing the urine with a test stick, paper strip, or tablet that changes color when sugar is present is not as accurate as blood testing, however it can give a fast and simple reading.
Diabetes mellitus (DM) is best defined as a syndrome characterized by inappropriate fasting or postprandial hyperglycemia, caused by absolute or relative insulin deficiency and its metabolic consequences, which include disturbed metabolism of protein and fat. This syndrome results from a combination of deficiency of insulin secretion and its action. Diabetes mellitus occurs when the normal constant of the product of insulin secretion times insulin sensitivity, a parabolic function termed the “disposition index” (Figure 19-1), is inadequate to prevent hyperglycemia and its clinical consequences of polyuria, polydipsia, and weight loss. At high degrees of insulin sensitivity, small declines in the ability to secrete insulin cause only mild, clinically imperceptible defects in glucose metabolism. However, irrespective of insulin sensitivity, a minimum amount of insulin is necessary for normal metabolism. Thus, near absolute deficiency of insulin must result in severe metabolic disturbance as occurs in type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM). By contrast, with decreasing sensitivity to its action, higher amounts of insulin secretion are required for a normal disposition index. At a critical point in the disposition index curve (see Figure 19-1), a further small decrement in insulin sensitivity requires a large increase in insulin secretion; those who can mount these higher rates of insulin secretion retain normal glucose metabolism, whereas those who cannot increase their insulin secretion because of genetic or acquired defects now manifest clinical diabetes as occurs in type 2 diabetes (T2DM).
By the time a person is diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, up to 50% of the beta cells in the pancreas have usually been damaged. In fact, these cells may have been declining for up to 10 years before the diagnosis. Along with raised blood pressure and elevated cholesterol levels, this predisposes the person to arterial damage years before diabetes is diagnosed. So, at the time of diagnosis, the person is already at risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD).
DM affects at least 16 million U.S. residents, ranks seventh as a cause of death in the United States, and costs the national economy over $100 billion yearly. The striking increase in the prevalence of DM in the U.S. during recent years has been linked to a rise in the prevalence of obesity. About 95% of those with DM have Type 2, in which the pancreatic beta cells retain some insulin-producing potential, and the rest have Type 1, in which exogenous insulin is required for long-term survival. In Type 1 DM, which typically causes symptoms before age 25, an autoimmune process is responsible for beta cell destruction. Type 2 DM is characterized by insulin resistance in peripheral tissues as well as a defect in insulin secretion by beta cells. Insulin regulates carbohydrate metabolism by mediating the rapid transport of glucose and amino acids from the circulation into muscle and other tissue cells, by promoting the storage of glucose in liver cells as glycogen, and by inhibiting gluconeogenesis. The normal stimulus for the release of insulin from the pancreas is a rise in the concentration of glucose in circulating blood, which typically occurs within a few minutes after a meal. When such a rise elicits an appropriate insulin response, so that the blood level of glucose falls again as it is taken into cells, glucose tolerance is said to be normal. The central fact in DM is an impairment of glucose tolerance of such a degree as to threaten or impair health. Long recognized as an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease, DM is often associated with other risk factors, including disorders of lipid metabolism (elevation of very-low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and triglycerides and depression of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol), obesity, hypertension, and impairment of renal function. Sustained elevation of serum glucose and triglycerides aggravates the biochemical defect inherent in DM by impairing insulin secretion, insulin-mediated glucose uptake by cells, and hepatic regulation of glucose output. Long-term consequences of the diabetic state include macrovascular complications (premature or accelerated atherosclerosis with resulting coronary, cerebral, and peripheral vascular insufficiency) and microvascular complications (retinopathy, nephropathy, and neuropathy). It is estimated that half those with DM already have some complications when the diagnosis is made. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends screening for DM for people with risk factors such as obesity, age 45 years or older, family history of DM, or history of gestational diabetes. If screening yields normal results, it should be repeated every 3 years. The diagnosis of DM depends on measurement of plasma glucose concentration. The diagnosis is confirmed when any two measurements of plasma glucose performed on different days yield levels at or above established thresholds: in the fasting state, 126 mg/dL (7 mmol/L); 2 hours postprandially (after a 75-g oral glucose load) or at random, 200 mg/dL (11.1 mmol/L). A fasting plasma glucose of 100-125 mg/dL (5.5-6.9 mmol/L) or a 2-hour postprandial glucose of 140-199 mg/dL (7.8-11 mmol/L) is defined as impaired glucose tolerance. People with impaired glucose tolerance are at higher risk of developing DM within 10 years. For such people, lifestyle modification such as weight reduction and exercise may prevent or postpone the onset of frank DM. Current recommendations for the management of DM emphasize education and individualization of therapy. Controlled studies have shown that rigorous maintenance of plasma glucose levels as near to normal as possible at all times substantially reduces the incidence and severity of long-term complications, particularly microvascular complications. Such control involves limitation of dietary carbohydrate and saturated fat; monitoring of blood glucose, including self-testing by the patient and periodic determination of glycosylated hemoglobin; and administration of insulin (particularly in Type 1 DM), drugs that stimulate endogenous insulin production (in Type 2 DM), or both. The ADA recommends inclusion of healthful carbohydrate-containing foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat milk in a diabetic diet. Restriction of dietary fat to less than 10% of total calories is recommended for people with diabetes, as for the general population. Further restriction may be appropriate for those with heart disease or elevated cholesterol or triglyceride levels. The ADA advises that high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets have no particular merit in long-term weight control or in maintenance of a normal plasma glucose level in DM. Pharmaceutical agents developed during the 1990s improve control of DM by enhancing responsiveness of cells to insulin, counteracting insulin resistance, and reducing postprandial carbohydrate absorption. Tailor-made insulin analogues produced by recombinant DNA technology (for example, lispro, aspart, and glargine insulins) have broadened the range of pharmacologic properties and treatment options available. Their use improves both short-term and long-term control of plasma glucose and is associated with fewer episodes of hypoglycemia. SEE ALSO insulin resistance
How does high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) feel? To maintain the right amount of blood sugar, the body needs insulin, a hormone that delivers this sugar to the cells. When insulin is lacking, blood sugar builds up. We describe symptoms of high blood sugar, including fatigue, weight loss, and frequent urination. Learn who is at risk and when to see a doctor here. Read now
Diabetes mellitus is a condition in which the body does not produce enough of the hormone insulin, resulting in high levels of sugar in the bloodstream. There are many different types of diabetes; the most common are type 1 and type 2 diabetes, which are covered in this article. Gestational diabetes occurs during the second half of pregnancy and is covered in a separate article. Diabetes can also be caused by disease or damage to the pancreas, Cushing's syndrome, acromegaly and there are also some rare genetic forms.
Most people with diabetes should keep a record of their blood glucose levels and report them to their doctor or nurse for advice in adjusting the dose of insulin or the oral antihyperglycemic drug. Many people can learn to adjust the insulin dose on their own as necessary. Some people who have mild or early type 2 diabetes that is well-controlled with one or two drugs may be able to monitor their fingerstick glucose levels relatively infrequently.
There are many types of sugar. Some sugars are simple, and others are complex. Table sugar (sucrose) is made of two simpler sugars called glucose and fructose. Milk sugar (lactose) is made of glucose and a simple sugar called galactose. The carbohydrates in starches, such as bread, pasta, rice, and similar foods, are long chains of different simple sugar molecules. Sucrose, lactose, carbohydrates, and other complex sugars must be broken down into simple sugars by enzymes in the digestive tract before the body can absorb them.
Fasting plasma glucose level: If your blood glucose level is 7.0 mmol/L or higher after having not eaten anything for at least 8 hours – called fasting – your doctor may diagnose diabetes. If your blood glucose level is between 6.1 to 6.9 mmol/L, your doctor may diagnose impaired fasting glucose or prediabetes (a condition that may later develop into diabetes).
When you have diabetes, excess sugar (glucose) builds up in your blood. Your kidneys are forced to work overtime to filter and absorb the excess sugar. If your kidneys can't keep up, the excess sugar is excreted into your urine, dragging along fluids from your tissues. This triggers more frequent urination, which may leave you dehydrated. As you drink more fluids to quench your thirst, you'll urinate even more.
If the amount of insulin available is insufficient, or if cells respond poorly to the effects of insulin (insulin insensitivity or insulin resistance), or if the insulin itself is defective, then glucose will not be absorbed properly by the body cells that require it, and it will not be stored appropriately in the liver and muscles. The net effect is persistently high levels of blood glucose, poor protein synthesis, and other metabolic derangements, such as acidosis.
There is no single gene that “causes” type 1 diabetes. Instead, there are a large number of inherited factors that may increase an individual’s likelihood of developing diabetes. This is known as multifactorial inheritance. The genes implicated in the development of type 1 diabetes mellitus control the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) system. This system is involved in the complex process of identifying cells which are a normal part of the body, and distinguishing them from foreign cells, such as those of bacteria or viruses. In an autoimmune disease such as diabetes mellitus, this system makes a mistake in identifying the normal ‘self’ cells as ‘foreign’, and attacks the body.
nephrogenic diabetes insipidus a rare form caused by failure of the renal tubules to reabsorb water; there is excessive production of antidiuretic hormone but the tubules fail to respond to it. Characteristics include polyuria, extreme thirst, growth retardation, and developmental delay. The condition does not respond to exogenous vasopressin. It may be inherited as an X-linked trait or be acquired as a result of drug therapy or systemic disease.
When you have Type 2 diabetes, you may start out with something called insulin resistance. This means your cells do not respond well to the insulin you are making. "Insulin levels may be quite high, especially in the early stages of the disease. Eventually, your pancreas may not be able to keep up, and insulin secretion goes down," Rettinger explains. Insulin resistance becomes more common as you put on more weight, especially weight around your belly.
People with glucose levels between normal and diabetic have impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) or insulin resistance. People with impaired glucose tolerance do not have diabetes, but are at high risk for progressing to diabetes. Each year, 1% to 5% of people whose test results show impaired glucose tolerance actually eventually develop diabetes. Weight loss and exercise may help people with impaired glucose tolerance return their glucose levels to normal. In addition, some physicians advocate the use of medications, such as metformin (Glucophage), to help prevent/delay the onset of overt diabetes.
People with type 2 diabetes have insulin resistance, which means the body cannot use insulin properly to help glucose get into the cells. In people with type 2 diabetes, insulin doesn’t work well in muscle, fat, and other tissues, so your pancreas (the organ that makes insulin) starts to put out a lot more of it to try and compensate. "This results in high insulin levels in the body,” says Fernando Ovalle, MD, director of the multidisciplinary diabetes clinic at the University of Alabama in Birmingham. This insulin level sends signals to the brain that your body is hungry.