Pre-clinical diabetes refers to the time during which destruction of pancreatic insulin-producing cells is occurring, but symptoms have not yet developed. This period may last for months to years. Normally, 80-90% of the pancreatic beta cells must be destroyed before any symptoms of diabetes develops. During this time, blood tests can identify some immunological markers of pancreatic cell destruction. However, there is currently no known treatment to prevent progression of pre-clinical diabetes to true diabetes mellitus.
While poor vision is hardly uncommon—more than 60 percent of the American population wears glasses or contacts, after all—sudden changes in your vision, especially blurriness, need to be addressed by your doctor. Blurry vision is often a symptom of diabetes, as high blood sugar levels can cause swelling in the lenses of your eye, distorting your sight in the process. Fortunately, for many people, the effect is temporary and goes away when their blood sugar is being managed.
Other potentially important mechanisms associated with type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance include: increased breakdown of lipids within fat cells, resistance to and lack of incretin, high glucagon levels in the blood, increased retention of salt and water by the kidneys, and inappropriate regulation of metabolism by the central nervous system. However, not all people with insulin resistance develop diabetes, since an impairment of insulin secretion by pancreatic beta cells is also required.
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.
Over time, a prolonged exposure to high blood sugar can damage the nerves throughout the body — a condition called diabetic neuropathy. Some people may not have any symptoms of the damage, while others may notice numbness, tingling, or pain in the extremities. “At the beginning, [diabetic neuropathy] usually starts in the feet and then it progresses upward,” says Dr. Ovalle. Although most common in people who have had type 2 diabetes for 25 years or more, it can occur in people who have prediabetes as well. In some studies, almost 50 percent of unexplained peripheral neuropathy [in the extremities], whether painful or otherwise, turns out to be caused by prediabetes or diabetes, says Dr. Einhorn.
Intensive blood sugar lowering (HbA1c<6%) as opposed to standard blood sugar lowering (HbA1c of 7–7.9%) does not appear to change mortality. The goal of treatment is typically an HbA1c of 7 to 8% or a fasting glucose of less than 7.2 mmol/L (130 mg/dl); however these goals may be changed after professional clinical consultation, taking into account particular risks of hypoglycemia and life expectancy. Despite guidelines recommending that intensive blood sugar control be based on balancing immediate harms with long-term benefits, many people – for example people with a life expectancy of less than nine years who will not benefit, are over-treated.
The brain depends on glucose as a fuel. As glucose levels drop below 65 mg/dL (3.2 mmol/L) counterregulatory hormones (eg, glucagon, cortisol, epinephrine) are released, and symptoms of hypoglycemia develop. These symptoms include sweatiness, shaking, confusion, behavioral changes, and, eventually, coma when blood glucose levels fall below 30-40 mg/dL.
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.
Prevention and treatment involve maintaining a healthy diet, regular physical exercise, a normal body weight, and avoiding use of tobacco. Control of blood pressure and maintaining proper foot care are important for people with the disease. Type 1 DM must be managed with insulin injections. Type 2 DM may be treated with medications with or without insulin. Insulin and some oral medications can cause low blood sugar. Weight loss surgery in those with obesity is sometimes an effective measure in those with type 2 DM. Gestational diabetes usually resolves after the birth of the baby.
For Candace Clark, bariatric surgery meant the difference between struggling with weight issues, including medical problems triggered by obesity, and enjoying renewed health and energy. "I felt like I was slowly dying," says Candace Clark, a 54-year-old Barron, Wisconsin, resident who had dealt with weight issues for years. "I was tired of feeling the way [...]
Apart from severe DKA or hypoglycemia, type 1 diabetes mellitus has little immediate morbidity. The risk of complications relates to diabetic control. With good management, patients can expect to lead full, normal, and healthy lives. Nevertheless, the average life expectancy of a child diagnosed with type 1 diabetes mellitus has been variously suggested to be reduced by 13-19 years, compared with their nondiabetic peers. 
In Japan, China, and other Asian countries, the transition from traditional carbohydrate-rich (e.g., rice-based) diets to lower-carbohydrate Westernized eating habits emphasizing meats, dairy products, and fried foods has been accompanied by a major increase in diabetes prevalence. Similarly, in the United States, a meat-based (omnivorous) diet is associated with a high prevalence of diabetes, compared with dietary patterns emphasizing plant-derived foods. In the Adventist Health Study-2, after adjusting for differences in body weight, physical activity, and other factors, an omnivorous diet was associated with roughly double the risk of diabetes, compared with a diet omitting animal products.5
People with type 1 diabetes sometimes receive transplantation of an entire pancreas or of only the insulin-producing cells from a donor pancreas. This procedure may allow people with type 1 diabetes mellitus to maintain normal glucose levels. However, because immunosuppressant drugs must be given to prevent the body from rejecting the transplanted cells, pancreas transplantation is usually done only in people who have serious complications due to diabetes or who are receiving another transplanted organ (such as a kidney) and will require immunosuppressant drugs anyway.
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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."
Keep your immunizations up to date. High blood sugar can weaken your immune system. Get a flu shot every year, and your doctor will likely recommend the pneumonia vaccine, as well. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also recommends the hepatitis B vaccination if you haven't previously received this vaccine and you're an adult age 19 to 59 with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. The CDC advises vaccination as soon as possible after diagnosis with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. If you are age 60 or older, have diabetes and haven't previously received the vaccine, talk to your doctor about whether it's right for you.
A healthy meal plan for people with diabetes is generally the same as healthy eating for anyone – low in saturated fat, moderate in salt and sugar, with meals based on lean protein, non-starchy vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and fruit. Foods that say they are healthier for people with diabetes generally offer no special benefit. Most of them still raise blood glucose levels, are more expensive, and can also have a laxative effect if they contain sugar alcohols.
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.
The symptoms may relate to fluid loss and polyuria, but the course may also be insidious. Diabetic animals are more prone to infections. The long-term complications recognized in humans are much rarer in animals. The principles of treatment (weight loss, oral antidiabetics, subcutaneous insulin) and management of emergencies (e.g. ketoacidosis) are similar to those in humans.
A second oral agent of another class or insulin may be added if metformin is not sufficient after three months. Other classes of medications include: sulfonylureas, thiazolidinediones, dipeptidyl peptidase-4 inhibitors, SGLT2 inhibitors, and glucagon-like peptide-1 analogs. As of 2015 there was no significant difference between these agents. A 2018 review found that SGLT2 inhibitors may be better than glucagon-like peptide-1 analogs or dipeptidyl peptidase-4 inhibitors.
About 40% of diabetes sufferers require oral agents for satisfactory blood glucose control, and some 40% need insulin injections. This hormone was isolated by Frederic Banting and Charles Best in 1921 in Canada. It revolutionized the treatment of diabetes and prevention of its complications, transforming Type 1 diabetes from a fatal disease to one in which long-term survival became achievable.
Patient Education. Successful management of diabetes requires that the patient actively participate in and be committed to the regimen of care. The problem of poor control can cause serious or even deadly short-term and long-term complications, with devastating effects on the patient's longevity and sense of well being. There are many teaching aids available to help persons with diabetes understand their disease and comply with prescribed therapy. In general, a patient education program should include the following components:
Threshold for diagnosis of diabetes is based on the relationship between results of glucose tolerance tests, fasting glucose or HbA1c and complications such as retinal problems. A fasting or random blood sugar is preferred over the glucose tolerance test, as they are more convenient for people. HbA1c has the advantages that fasting is not required and results are more stable but has the disadvantage that the test is more costly than measurement of blood glucose. It is estimated that 20% of people with diabetes in the United States do not realize that they have the disease.
It’s not uncommon for patients to suddenly feel unsteady and immediately need to reach for carbs, says Marjorie Cypress, a nurse practitioner at an endocrinology clinic in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and 2014 president of health care and education for the American Diabetes Association. “When you have high blood sugar, your body has a problem regulating its glucose,” she explains. “If you’ve eaten something high in carbohydrates, your body shoots out a little too much insulin, and your glucose drops quickly. This makes you feel shaky, and you tend to crave carbs or sugar. This can lead to a vicious cycle.” These are the best foods for someone on a diabetic diet.
The good news is that if you have diabetes, you have a great amount of control in managing your disease. Although it can be difficult to manage a disease on a daily basis, the resources and support for people with diabetes is endless. It's important for you to receive as much education as possible so that you can take advantage of all the good information that is out there (and weed out the bad).
No single environmental trigger has been identified as causing diabetes mellitus, however both infectious agents and dietary factors are thought to be important. Various viruses have been implicated in the development of type I DM. They may act by initiating or modifying the autoimmune process. In particular, the rubella virus and coxsackie viruses have been closely studied. In particular, congenital rubella infection has shown direct relationships with the development of type 1 diabetes mellitus. This is presumably due to the virus (or antibodies against it) damaging the beta cells of the pancreas. Some research has looked at dietary factors that may be associated with type 1 diabetes. In particular, cow’s milk proteins (such as bovine serum albumin) which may have some similarities to pancreatic islet cell markers may be able to trigger the autoimmune process. Other chemicals including nitrosamines have been identified as causes of diabetes mellitus in animal models, but not in humans.
Patients with type 1 DM, unless they have had a pancreatic transplant, require insulin to live; intensive therapy with insulin to limit hyperglycemia (“tight control”) is more effective than conventional therapy in preventing the progression of serious microvascular complications such as kidney and retinal diseases. Intensive therapy consists of three or more doses of insulin injected or administered by infusion pump daily, with frequent self-monitoring of blood glucose levels as well as frequent changes in therapy as a result of contacts with health care professionals. Some negative aspects of intensive therapy include a three times more frequent occurrence of severe hypoglycemia, weight gain, and an adverse effect on serum lipid levels, i.e., a rise in total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides and a fall in HDL cholesterol. Participation in an intensive therapy program requires a motivated patient, but it can dramatically reduce eye, nerve, and renal complications compared to conventional therapy. See: insulin pump for illus.
Women seem to be at a greater risk as do certain ethnic groups, such as South Asians, Pacific Islanders, Latinos, and Native Americans. This may be due to enhanced sensitivity to a Western lifestyle in certain ethnic groups. Traditionally considered a disease of adults, type 2 diabetes is increasingly diagnosed in children in parallel with rising obesity rates. Type 2 diabetes is now diagnosed as frequently as type 1 diabetes in teenagers in the United States.
A random blood sugar of greater than 11.1 mmol/l (200 mg/dl) in association with typical symptoms or a glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) of ≥ 48 mmol/mol (≥ 6.5 DCCT %) is another method of diagnosing diabetes. In 2009 an International Expert Committee that included representatives of the American Diabetes Association (ADA), the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), and the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) recommended that a threshold of ≥ 48 mmol/mol (≥ 6.5 DCCT %) should be used to diagnose diabetes. This recommendation was adopted by the American Diabetes Association in 2010. Positive tests should be repeated unless the person presents with typical symptoms and blood sugars >11.1 mmol/l (>200 mg/dl).
Inhalable insulin has been developed. The original products were withdrawn due to side effects. Afrezza, under development by the pharmaceuticals company MannKind Corporation, was approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for general sale in June 2014. An advantage to inhaled insulin is that it may be more convenient and easy to use.
High blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia) can lead to a condition called glucose toxicity. This leads to further damage to the pancreas, and the body is less able to produce insulin. Without insulin, glucose levels continue to rise to levels that can cause damage to organs such as the eyes, nerves, and kidneys. These problems are similar to the complications associated with type 1 diabetes.
Rates of type 2 diabetes have increased markedly since 1960 in parallel with obesity. As of 2015 there were approximately 392 million people diagnosed with the disease compared to around 30 million in 1985. Typically it begins in middle or older age, although rates of type 2 diabetes are increasing in young people. Type 2 diabetes is associated with a ten-year-shorter life expectancy. Diabetes was one of the first diseases described. The importance of insulin in the disease was determined in the 1920s.
Another area of pathologic changes associated with diabetes mellitus is the nervous system (diabetic neuropathy), particularly in the peripheral nerves of the lower extremities. The patient typically experiences a “stocking-type” anesthesia beginning about 10 years after the onset of the disease. There may eventually be almost total anesthesia of the affected part with the potential for serious injury to the part without the patient being aware of it. In contrast, some patients experience debilitating pain and hyperesthesia, with loss of deep tendon reflexes.
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.
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
Type 2 diabetes is different. A person with type 2 diabetes still produces insulin but the body doesn't respond to it normally. Glucose is less able to enter the cells and do its job of supplying energy (a problem called insulin resistance). This raises the blood sugar level, so the pancreas works hard to make even more insulin. Eventually, this strain can make the pancreas unable to produce enough insulin to keep blood sugar levels normal.
In general, women live longer than men do because they have a lower risk of heart disease, but when women develop diabetes, their risk for heart disease skyrockets, and death by heart failure is more likely in women than in men. Another study also found that in people with diabetes, heart attacks are more often fatal for women than they are for men. Other examples of how diabetes affects women differently than men are: