The prognosis of diabetes is related to the extent to which the condition is kept under control to prevent the development of the complications described in the preceding sections. Some of the more serious complications of diabetes such as kidney failure and cardiovascular disease, can be life-threatening. Acute complications such as diabetic ketoacidosis can also be life-threatening. As mentioned above, aggressive control of blood sugar levels can prevent or delay the onset of complications, and many people with diabetes lead long and full lives.
Type 1 and type 2 diabetes were identified as separate conditions for the first time by the Indian physicians Sushruta and Charaka in 400–500 AD with type 1 associated with youth and type 2 with being overweight. The term "mellitus" or "from honey" was added by the Briton John Rolle in the late 1700s to separate the condition from diabetes insipidus which is also associated with frequent urination. Effective treatment was not developed until the early part of the 20th century when the Canadians Frederick Banting and Charles Best discovered insulin in 1921 and 1922. This was followed by the development of the long acting NPH insulin in the 1940s.
Treatment of pituitary diabetes insipidus consists of administration of vasopressin. A synthetic analogue of vasopressin (DDAVP) can be administered as a nasal spray, providing antidiuretic activity for 8 to 20 hours, and is currently the drug of choice. Patient care includes instruction in self-administration of the drug, its expected action, symptoms that indicate a need to adjust the dosage, and the importance of follow-up visits. Patients with this condition should wear some form of medical identification at all times.
The relationship between type 2 diabetes and the main modifiable risk factors (excess weight, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and tobacco use) is similar in all regions of the world. There is growing evidence that the underlying determinants of diabetes are a reflection of the major forces driving social, economic and cultural change: globalization, urbanization, population aging, and the general health policy environment.
Insulin is needed to allow glucose to pass from the blood into most of the body cells. Only the cells of the brain and central nervous system can use glucose from the blood in the absence of insulin. Without insulin, most body cells metabolize substances other than glucose for energy. However, fat metabolism in the absence of glucose metabolism, creates ketone bodies which are poisonous and their build up is associated with hyperglycemic coma. In the absence of sufficient insulin, unmetabolized glucose builds up in the blood. Water is drawn from body cells by osmosis to dilute the highly concentrated blood, and is then excreted along with much of the glucose, once the renal threshold for glucose (usually 10 mmol/L) is exceeded. Dehydration follows.
The classic symptoms of diabetes are polyuria (frequent urination), polydipsia (increased thirst), polyphagia (increased hunger), and weight loss. Other symptoms that are commonly present at diagnosis include a history of blurred vision, itchiness, peripheral neuropathy, recurrent vaginal infections, and fatigue. Many people, however, have no symptoms during the first few years and are diagnosed on routine testing. A small number of people with type 2 diabetes mellitus can develop a hyperosmolar hyperglycemic state (a condition of very high blood sugar associated with a decreased level of consciousness and low blood pressure).
Blood travels throughout your body, and when too much glucose (sugar) is present, it disrupts the normal environment that the organ systems of your body function within. In turn, your body starts to exhibit signs that things are not working properly inside—those are the symptoms of diabetes people sometimes experience. If this problem—caused by a variety of factors—is left untreated, it can lead to a number of damaging complications such as heart attacks, strokes, blindness, kidney failure, and blood vessel disease that may require an amputation, nerve damage, and impotence in men.
The blood vessels and blood are the highways that transport sugar from where it is either taken in (the stomach) or manufactured (in the liver) to the cells where it is used (muscles) or where it is stored (fat). Sugar cannot go into the cells by itself. The pancreas releases insulin into the blood, which serves as the helper, or the "key," that lets sugar into the cells for use as energy.
Type 1 diabetes mellitus is characterized by loss of the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreatic islets, leading to insulin deficiency. This type can be further classified as immune-mediated or idiopathic. The majority of type 1 diabetes is of the immune-mediated nature, in which a T cell-mediated autoimmune attack leads to the loss of beta cells and thus insulin. It causes approximately 10% of diabetes mellitus cases in North America and Europe. Most affected people are otherwise healthy and of a healthy weight when onset occurs. Sensitivity and responsiveness to insulin are usually normal, especially in the early stages. Type 1 diabetes can affect children or adults, but was traditionally termed "juvenile diabetes" because a majority of these diabetes cases were found in children.
Diabetes mellitus occurs throughout the world but is more common (especially type 2) in more developed countries. The greatest increase in rates has however been seen in low- and middle-income countries, where more than 80% of diabetic deaths occur. The fastest prevalence increase is expected to occur in Asia and Africa, where most people with diabetes will probably live in 2030. The increase in rates in developing countries follows the trend of urbanization and lifestyle changes, including increasingly sedentary lifestyles, less physically demanding work and the global nutrition transition, marked by increased intake of foods that are high energy-dense but nutrient-poor (often high in sugar and saturated fats, sometimes referred to as the "Western-style" diet). The global prevalence of diabetes might increase by 55% between 2013 and 2035.
If you’re getting a good night’s rest but still find yourself so tired you can barely function, it’s definitely worth mentioning to your doctor. Diabetes often wreaks havoc on a person’s normal blood sugar levels, causing fatigue in the process. In later stages, the tissue death associated with untreated diabetes can also limit circulation, meaning oxygenated blood isn’t being effectively transported to your vital organs, making your body work harder and tiring you out along the way.
The roots of type 2 diabetes remain in insulin resistance and pancreatic failure, and the blame for the current diabetes epidemic lies in an overall dietary pattern emphasizing meat, dairy products, and fatty foods, aided and abetted by sugary foods and beverages, rather than simply in sugar alone. A diet emphasizing vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes and avoiding animal products helps prevent diabetes and improves its management when it has been diagnosed.
Does having type 2 diabetes affect life expectancy? While continued improvements in therapies and care for type 2 diabetes may be helping patients live longer, the unfortunate reality is that type 2 diabetes has been shown to decrease life expectancy by up to ten years, according to Diabetes UK. There is still much to be done to ensure that all patients have access to appropriate healthcare and treatments to live a happier and healthier life with type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes is believed to have a strong genetic link, meaning that it tends to run in families. Several genes are being studied that may be related to the cause of type 2 diabetes. If you have any of the following type 2 diabetes risk factors, it’s important to ask your doctor about a diabetes test. With a proper diabetes diet and healthy lifestyle habits, along with diabetes medication, if necessary, you can manage type 2 diabetes just like you manage other areas of your life. Be sure to continue seeking the latest information on type 2 diabetes as you become your own health advocate.
Blurred vision can result from elevated blood sugar. Similarly, fluid that is pulled from the cells into the bloodstream to dilute the sugar can also be pulled from the lenses of your eyes. When the lens of the eye becomes dry, the eye is unable to focus, resulting in blurry vision. It's important that all people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes have a dilated eye exam shortly after diagnosis. Damage to the eye can even occur before a diagnosis of diabetes exists.
The woman’s weight may also play a role. Changing hormone levels and weight gain are part of a healthy pregnancy, but both changes make it more difficult for the body to keep up with its need for insulin. This may lead to gestational diabetes. As pregnancy progresses, the placenta also produces insulin-blocking hormones, which might result in a woman’s blood-glucose levels becoming elevated if there isn’t enough insulin to counter this effect.
Patients who suffer from diabetes have a lifelong struggle to attain and maintain blood glucose levels as close to the normal range as possible. With appropriate blood sugar control, the risk of both microvascular (small blood vessel) and neuropathic (nerve) complications is decreased markedly. Additionally, if hypertension (high blood pressure) and hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol) are treated promptly and aggressively, the risk of cardiovascular complications should decrease as well.
The genes identified so far in people with type 2 include many that affect the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas, says Craig Hanis, PhD, a professor at the Human Genetics Center at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston. And yet he emphasizes that why people get type 2 isn't at all clear yet: "What it tells us is that diabetes is a complicated disease."
Dietary factors also influence the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks in excess is associated with an increased risk. The type of fats in the diet are important, with saturated fats and trans fatty acids increasing the risk, and polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat decreasing the risk. Eating a lot of white rice appears to play a role in increasing risk. A lack of exercise is believed to cause 7% of cases. Persistent organic pollutants may play a role.
Some people with type 2 diabetes are treated with insulin. Insulin is either injected with a syringe several times per day, or delivered via an insulin pump. The goal of insulin therapy is to mimic the way the pancreas would produce and distribute its own insulin, if it were able to manufacture it. Taking insulin does not mean you have done a bad job of trying to control your blood glucose—instead it simply means that your body doesn’t produce or use enough of it on its own to cover the foods you eat.
Dr. May currently works as a fulltime endocrinologist and has been in private practice since 2004. He has a variety of interests, predominantly obesity and diabetes, but also sees patients with osteoporosis, thyroid disorders, men's health disorders, pituitary and adrenal disorders, polycystic ovaries, and disorders of growth. He is a leading member of several obesity and diabetes societies and runs a trial centre for new drugs.
Findings from the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT) and the United Kingdom Prospective Diabetes Study (UKPDS) have clearly shown that aggressive and intensive control of elevated levels of blood sugar in patients with type 1 and type 2 diabetes decreases the complications of nephropathy, neuropathy, retinopathy, and may reduce the occurrence and severity of large blood vessel diseases. Aggressive control with intensive therapy means achieving fasting glucose levels between 70-120 mg/dl; glucose levels of less than 160 mg/dl after meals; and a near normal hemoglobin A1c levels (see below).
A proper diet and exercise are the foundations of diabetic care, with a greater amount of exercise yielding better results. Exercise improves blood sugar control, decreases body fat content and decreases blood lipid levels, and these effects are evident even without weight loss. Aerobic exercise leads to a decrease in HbA1c and improved insulin sensitivity. Resistance training is also useful and the combination of both types of exercise may be most effective.
There is no known preventive measure for type 1 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes – which accounts for 85–90% of all cases – can often be prevented or delayed by maintaining a normal body weight, engaging in physical activity, and consuming a healthy diet. Higher levels of physical activity (more than 90 minutes per day) reduce the risk of diabetes by 28%. Dietary changes known to be effective in helping to prevent diabetes include maintaining a diet rich in whole grains and fiber, and choosing good fats, such as the polyunsaturated fats found in nuts, vegetable oils, and fish. Limiting sugary beverages and eating less red meat and other sources of saturated fat can also help prevent diabetes. Tobacco smoking is also associated with an increased risk of diabetes and its complications, so smoking cessation can be an important preventive measure as well.
There are a number of medications and other health problems that can predispose to diabetes. Some of the medications include: glucocorticoids, thiazides, beta blockers, atypical antipsychotics, and statins. Those who have previously had gestational diabetes are at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Other health problems that are associated include: acromegaly, Cushing's syndrome, hyperthyroidism, pheochromocytoma, and certain cancers such as glucagonomas. Testosterone deficiency is also associated with type 2 diabetes.