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).
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.
The above tips are important for you. But it's also crucial to allow yourself time to cope with the diagnosis and commit to making lifestyle changes that will benefit you forever. The good news is the diabetes is a manageable disease; the tough part is that you must think about it daily. Consider finding support—someone that you can talk to about your struggles—be that a friend, another person with diabetes, or a loved one. This may seem trivial, but it truly can help you take control of diabetes so that it doesn't control you. Some next steps that may help you to get on the right track at this early stage in your journey:
Recently, battery-operated insulin pumps have been developed that can be programmed to mimic normal insulin secretion more closely. A person wearing an insulin pump still must monitor blood sugar several times a day and adjust the dosage, and not all diabetic patients are motivated or suited to such vigilance. It is hoped that in the future an implantable or external pump system may be perfected, containing a glucose sensor. In response to data from the sensor the pump will automatically deliver insulin according to changing levels of blood glucose.
Aspirin should be used as secondary prophylaxis in all diabetic people with evidence of macrovascular disease, and it should be strongly considered as primary prevention in diabetic subjects with other risk factors for macrovascular disease, such as hypertension, cigarette smoking, dyslipidemia, obesity, and albuminuria (macro or micro).228 Because of the platelet defects associated with diabetes, it is recommended that the dose of aspirin should be 300 mg per day,228–230 although the American Diabetes Association’s position statement (http://www.diabetes.org/DiabetesCare/supplement198/s45.htm) advocates a dose of 81 to 325 mg enteric-coated aspirin per day. If the patient cannot tolerate aspirin, then clopidogrel231 can be used.
Information on mortality rates for type 1 diabetes mellitus is difficult to ascertain without complete national registers of childhood diabetes, although age-specific mortality is probably double that of the general population. [35, 36] Children aged 1-4 years are particularly at risk and may die due to DKA at the time of diagnosis. Adolescents are also a high-risk group. Most deaths result from delayed diagnosis or neglected treatment and subsequent cerebral edema during treatment for DKA, although untreated hypoglycemia also causes some deaths. Unexplained death during sleep may also occur and appears more likely to affect young males. 
Many studies have shown that awareness about the diabetes and its complications is poor among the general population specially in the rural areas6,7. There is an urgent need to create awareness among the population regarding diabetes and about the serious consequences of this chronic disorder. Epidemiological data from India have shown the presence of a number of risk factors which can be easily identified by simple non-invasive risk scores8,9. The major risk factors are listed in Box 1.
Diet and moderate exercise are the first treatments implemented in diabetes. For many Type II diabetics, weight loss may be an important goal in helping them to control their diabetes. A well-balanced, nutritious diet provides approximately 50-60% of calories from carbohydrates, approximately 10-20% of calories from protein, and less than 30% of calories from fat. The number of calories required by an individual depends on age, weight, and activity level. The calorie intake also needs to be distributed over the course of the entire day so surges of glucose entering the blood system are kept to a minimum.
Talk with your doctor about connecting with a certified diabetes educator and receiving diabetes self-management education. Learning about what to eat, what your medicines do, and how to test your blood sugars are just some of the things these resources can help with. Educators can also dispel myths, create meal plans, coordinate other doctors appointments for you, and listen to your needs. They are trained to teach using a patient-centered approach. They are your advocates who specialize in diabetes. Ask your doctor today or go to the American Association of Diabetes Educators website to find someone near you. Be sure to call your insurance company to see if these services are covered, too.
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.
With type 1, a disease that often seems to strike suddenly and unexpectedly, the effects of environment and lifestyle are far less clear. But several theories attempt to explain why cases of type 1 have increased so dramatically in recent decades, by around 5 percent per year since 1980. The three main suspects now are too little sun, too good hygiene, and too much cow's milk.
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.
Per the WHO, people with fasting glucose levels from 6.1 to 6.9 mmol/l (110 to 125 mg/dl) are considered to have impaired fasting glucose. people with plasma glucose at or above 7.8 mmol/l (140 mg/dl), but not over 11.1 mmol/l (200 mg/dl), two hours after a 75 gram oral glucose load are considered to have impaired glucose tolerance. Of these two prediabetic states, the latter in particular is a major risk factor for progression to full-blown diabetes mellitus, as well as cardiovascular disease. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) since 2003 uses a slightly different range for impaired fasting glucose of 5.6 to 6.9 mmol/l (100 to 125 mg/dl).
Diabetes mellitus is a condition in which the pancreas no longer produces enough insulin or cells stop responding to the insulin that is produced, so that glucose in the blood cannot be absorbed into the cells of the body. Symptoms include frequent urination, lethargy, excessive thirst, and hunger. The treatment includes changes in diet, oral medications, and in some cases, daily injections of insulin.
Keeping track of the number of calories provided by different foods can become complicated, so patients usually are advised to consult a nutritionist or dietitian. An individualized, easy to manage diet plan can be set up for each patient. Both the American Diabetes Association and the American Dietetic Association recommend diets based on the use of food exchange lists. Each food exchange contains a known amount of calories in the form of protein, fat, or carbohydrate. A patient's diet plan will consist of a certain number of exchanges from each food category (meat or protein, fruits, breads and starches, vegetables, and fats) to be eaten at meal times and as snacks. Patients have flexibility in choosing which foods they eat as long as they stick with the number of exchanges prescribed.
Know Your Numbers: Knowing your ABCs—A1c, blood pressure, and cholesterol—are important in reducing your risk for diabetes and keeping your diabetes in good control. If you are someone with diabetes who has elevated blood pressure or cholesterol, you are increasing your risk of heart attack and stroke. Your physician will give you your A1c, blood pressure, and cholesterol targets. Make sure you pay attention to them and understand what they mean and why they are important.
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.
Sugar doesn't cause diabetes. But there is one way that sugar can influence whether a person gets type 2 diabetes. Consuming too much sugar (or sugary foods and drinks) can make people put on weight. Gaining too much weight leads to type 2 diabetes in some people. Of course, eating too much sugar isn't the only cause of weight gain. Weight gain from eating too much of any food can make a person's chance of getting diabetes greater.
Retinopathy: If blood sugar levels are too high, they can damage the eyes and cause vision loss and blindness. Retinopathy causes the development and leaking of new blood vessels behind the eye. Other effects of diabetes, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, can make this worse. According to the CDC, early treatment can prevent or reduce the risk of blindness in an estimated 90 percent of people with diabetes.
Nerve damage from diabetes is called diabetic neuropathy and is also caused by disease of small blood vessels. In essence, the blood flow to the nerves is limited, leaving the nerves without blood flow, and they get damaged or die as a result (a term known as ischemia). Symptoms of diabetic nerve damage include numbness, burning, and aching of the feet and lower extremities. When the nerve disease causes a complete loss of sensation in the feet, patients may not be aware of injuries to the feet, and fail to properly protect them. Shoes or other protection should be worn as much as possible. Seemingly minor skin injuries should be attended to promptly to avoid serious infections. Because of poor blood circulation, diabetic foot injuries may not heal. Sometimes, minor foot injuries can lead to serious infection, ulcers, and even gangrene, necessitating surgical amputation of toes, feet, and other infected parts.
When your blood sugar is out of whack, you just don’t feel well, says Cypress, and might become more short-tempered. In fact, high blood sugar can mimic depression-like symptoms. “You feel very tired, you don’t feel like doing anything, you don’t want to go out, you just want to sleep,” Cypress says. She’ll see patients who think they need to be treated for depression, but then experience mood improvement after their blood sugar normalizes.
Studies in type 1 patients have shown that in intensively treated patients, diabetic eye disease decreased by 76%, kidney disease decreased by 54%, and nerve disease decreased by 60%. More recently the EDIC trial has shown that type 1 diabetes is also associated with increased heart disease, similar to type 2 diabetes. However, the price for aggressive blood sugar control is a two to three fold increase in the incidence of abnormally low blood sugar levels (caused by the diabetes medications). For this reason, tight control of diabetes to achieve glucose levels between 70 to120 mg/dl is not recommended for children under 13 years of age, patients with severe recurrent hypoglycemia, patients unaware of their hypoglycemia, and patients with far advanced diabetes complications. To achieve optimal glucose control without an undue risk of abnormally lowering blood sugar levels, patients with type 1 diabetes must monitor their blood glucose at least four times a day and administer insulin at least three times per day. In patients with type 2 diabetes, aggressive blood sugar control has similar beneficial effects on the eyes, kidneys, nerves and blood vessels.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.