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.
Unexplained weight loss can happen for lots of reasons, and diabetes is one of them. Goundan explains that insulin helps your body move sugar from your blood to your cells, so when you have an insulin resistance, you don’t get enough energy into your cells despite all that sugar flowing through your body. “Because you’re unable to get enough energy from sugar, your body burns your own fat and muscle for energy," Kellis says. "Weight loss can be pretty significant, sometimes 10 to 20 pounds."
Scientists have done studies of twins to help estimate how important genes are in determining one's risk of developing diabetes. Identical twins have identical genes and thus the same genetic risk for a disease. Research has found that if one identical twin has type 1 diabetes, the chance that the other twin will get the disease is roughly 40 or 50 percent. For type 2 diabetes, that risk goes up to about 80 or 90 percent. This might suggest that genes play a bigger role in type 2 than in type 1, but that isn't necessarily so. Type 2 is far more common in the general population than type 1, which means that regardless of genetics both twins are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
According to the National Institutes of Health, the reported rate of gestational diabetes is between 2% to 10% of pregnancies. Gestational diabetes usually resolves itself after pregnancy. Having gestational diabetes does, however, put mothers at risk for developing type 2 diabetes later in life. Up to 10% of women with gestational diabetes develop type 2 diabetes. It can occur anywhere from a few weeks after delivery to months or years later.
When the glucose concentration in the blood remains high over time, the kidneys will reach a threshold of reabsorption, and glucose will be excreted in the urine (glycosuria). This increases the osmotic pressure of the urine and inhibits reabsorption of water by the kidney, resulting in increased urine production (polyuria) and increased fluid loss. Lost blood volume will be replaced osmotically from water held in body cells and other body compartments, causing dehydration and increased thirst (polydipsia).
Excessive hunger goes hand-in-hand with fatigue and cell starvation. Because the cells are resistant to the body's insulin, glucose remains in the blood. The cells are then unable to gain access to glucose, which can trigger hunger hormones that tell the brain that you are hungry. Excessive eating can complicate things further by causing blood sugars to increase.
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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 CE 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 Canadians Frederick Banting and Charles Herbert Best isolated and purified insulin in 1921 and 1922. This was followed by the development of the long-acting insulin NPH in the 1940s.
Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), is common in people with type 1 and type 2 DM. Most cases are mild and are not considered medical emergencies. Effects can range from feelings of unease, sweating, trembling, and increased appetite in mild cases to more serious effects such as confusion, changes in behavior such as aggressiveness, seizures, unconsciousness, and (rarely) permanent brain damage or death in severe cases. Moderately low blood sugar may easily be mistaken for drunkenness; rapid breathing and sweating, cold, pale skin are characteristic of low blood sugar but not definitive. Mild to moderate cases are self-treated by eating or drinking something high in sugar. Severe cases can lead to unconsciousness and must be treated with intravenous glucose or injections with glucagon.
It is especially important that persons with diabetes who are taking insulin not skip meals; they must also be sure to eat the prescribed amounts at the prescribed times during the day. Since the insulin-dependent diabetic needs to match food consumption to the available insulin, it is advantageous to increase the number of daily feedings by adding snacks between meals and at bedtime.
Hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia or “insulin shock” is a common concern in DM management. It typically develops when a diabetic patient takes his or her normal dose of insulin without eating normally. As a result, the administered insulin can push the blood sugar to potentially dangerously low levels. Initially the patient may experience, sweating, nervousness, hunger and weakness. If the hypoglycemic patient is not promptly given sugar (sugar, cola, cake icing), he or she may lose consciousness and even lapse into coma. Questions and Answers about Diabetes and Your Mouth Q: If I have diabetes, will I develop the oral complications that were mentioned? A: It depends. There is a two-way relationship between your oral health and how well your blood sugar is controlled (glycemic control). Poor control of your blood sugar increases your risk of developing the multitude of complications associated with diabetes, including oral complications. Conversely, poor oral health interferes with proper glucose stabilization. Indeed, recent research has shown that diabetic patients who improve their oral health experience a modest improvement in their blood sugar levels. In essence, “Healthy mouths mean healthy bodies.” Q: What are the complications of diabetes therapy that can impact my oral health? A: One of the most worrisome urgent complications associated with diabetes management is the previously described hypoglycemia or insulin shock. In addition, many of the medications prescribed to treat diabetes and its complications, such as hypertension and heart disease, may induce adverse side effects affecting the mouth. Common side effects include dry mouth, taste aberrations, and mouth sores. Q: I have type-2 diabetes. Are my dental problems different than those experienced by people with type-1 diabetes? A: No. All patients with diabetes are at increased risk for the development of dental disease. What is different is that type-2 disease tends to progress more slowly than type-1 disease. Thus, most type-2 diabetes patients are diagnosed later in life, a time in which they are likely to already have existing dental problems. Remember, there is no dental disease unique to diabetes. Uncontrolled or poorly controlled diabetes simply compromises your body’s ability to control the existing disease.
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.”
Type 2 diabetes mellitus (non–insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus [NIDDM]) is a heterogeneous disorder. Most patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus have insulin resistance, and their beta cells lack the ability to overcome this resistance.  Although this form of diabetes was previously uncommon in children, in some countries, 20% or more of new patients with diabetes in childhood and adolescence have type 2 diabetes mellitus, a change associated with increased rates of obesity. Other patients may have inherited disorders of insulin release, leading to maturity onset diabetes of the young (MODY) or congenital diabetes. [7, 8, 9] This topic addresses only type 1 diabetes mellitus. (See Etiology and Epidemiology.)
Hypoglycemic reactions are promptly treated by giving carbohydrates (orange juice, hard candy, honey, or any sugary food); if necessary, subcutaneous or intramuscular glucagon or intravenous dextrose (if the patient is not conscious) is administered. Hyperglycemic crises are treated initially with prescribed intravenous fluids and insulin and later with potassium replacement based on laboratory values.
Being too heavy gets the bulk of the blame for triggering type 2 diabetes. According to the National Institutes of Health, about 85 percent of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese. But consider that the remaining 15 percent are not. Consider, too, that roughly two-thirds of overweight people and a third of those who are obese will never develop diabetes. In other words, normal-weight and thin people also develop type 2, while heavy people won't necessarily. Clearly, there is more to the connection between lifestyle and type 2 diabetes than just body size.
Type 2 diabetes is due to insufficient insulin production from beta cells in the setting of insulin resistance. Insulin resistance, which is the inability of cells to respond adequately to normal levels of insulin, occurs primarily within the muscles, liver, and fat tissue. In the liver, insulin normally suppresses glucose release. However, in the setting of insulin resistance, the liver inappropriately releases glucose into the blood. The proportion of insulin resistance versus beta cell dysfunction differs among individuals, with some having primarily insulin resistance and only a minor defect in insulin secretion and others with slight insulin resistance and primarily a lack of insulin secretion.
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.
Glucose is vital to your health because it's an important source of energy for the cells that make up your muscles and tissues. It's also your brain's main source of fuel. If you have diabetes, no matter what type, it means you have too much glucose in your blood, although the causes may differ. Too much glucose can lead to serious health problems.
This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings through its clearinghouses and education programs to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.
Weight loss surgery in those who are obese is an effective measure to treat diabetes. Many are able to maintain normal blood sugar levels with little or no medication following surgery and long-term mortality is decreased. There however is some short-term mortality risk of less than 1% from the surgery. The body mass index cutoffs for when surgery is appropriate are not yet clear. It is recommended that this option be considered in those who are unable to get both their weight and blood sugar under control.