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.
Insulin Therapy. Exogenous insulin is given to patients with diabetes mellitus as a supplement to the insufficient amount of endogenous insulin that they produce. In some cases, this must make up for an absolute lack of insulin from the pancreas. Exogenous insulin is available in various types. It must be given by injection, usually subcutaneously, and because it is a potent drug, the dosage must be measured meticulously. Commonly, regular insulin, which is a fast-acting insulin with a short span of action, is mixed with one of the longer-acting insulins and both types are administered in one injection.
The typical symptoms of diabetes mellitus are the three “polys:” polyuria, polydipsia, and polyphagia. Because of insulin deficiency, the assimilation and storage of glucose in muscle adipose tissues, and the liver is greatly diminished. This produces an accumulation of glucose in the blood and creates an increase in its osmolarity. In response to this increased osmotic pressure there is depletion of intracellular water and osmotic diuresis. The water loss creates intense thirst and increased urination. The increased appetite (polyphagia) is not as clearly understood. It may be the result of the body's effort to increase its supply of energy foods even though eating more carbohydrates in the absence of sufficient insulin does not meet the energy needs of the cells.
Management. There is no cure for diabetes; the goal of treatment is to maintain blood glucose and lipid levels within normal limits and to prevent complications. In general, good control is achieved when the following occur: fasting plasma glucose is within a specific range (set by health care providers and the individual), glycosylated hemoglobin tests show that blood sugar levels have stayed within normal limits from one testing period to the next, the patient's weight is normal, blood lipids remain within normal limits, and the patient has a sense of health and well-being.
Those dark patches on your skin could be more serious than a blotchy tan. In fact, they might be the first sign of diabetes. This darkening of the skin, which usually occurs on the hands and feet, in folds of skin, along the neck, and in a person’s groin and armpits, called acanthosis nigricans, often occurs when insulin levels are high. The high insulin levels in your blood can increase your body’s production of skin cells, many of which have increased pigmentation, giving skin a darkened appearance.
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).
Despite our efforts, patients are still likely to suffer myocardial infarction. The Diabetes mellitus, Insulin Glucose infusion in Acute Myocardial Infarction (DIGAMI) study236,237 reported on treating subjects with acute myocardial infarction and either diabetes or raised random plasma glucose (i.e., not necessarily diabetic) with either an intensive insulin infusion and then a four-times daily insulin regimen or conventional treatment. Over a mean follow-up of 3.4 years, there was a 33% death rate in the treatment group compared with a 44% death rate in the control group, an absolute reduction in mortality of 11%. The effect was greatest among the subgroup without previous insulin treatment and at a low cardiovascular risk. Evidence is continuing to accumulate that the diabetic person should have a glucose/insulin infusion after a myocardial infarction.
The good news is that behavior still seems to help shape whether someone with the genetic disposition actually develops type 2—and that changes in diet and exercise can sometimes be enough to ward off the disease. "People sometimes have the misconception that if we say something is genetic, then they can't do anything about preventing diabetes and its complications," says Hanis. But he notes that in a landmark study, lifestyle interventions prevented or delayed type 2 in nearly 60 percent of people at high risk. "If we focus on changing the environment, we can prevent diabetes," he says. "As we understand the genetics, we can prevent more of it."
The ketogenic, or keto, diet calls for dramatically increasing your fat intake and consuming a moderate amount of protein and a very low amount of carbs, with the aim of kicking your body into a natural metabolic state called ketosis, in which it relies on burning fat rather than carbs for energy. Ketosis is different from diabetic ketoacidosis, a health emergency that occurs when insulin levels are low in conjunction with high levels of ketones. (37) Ketones are by-products of metabolism that are released in the blood when carb intake is low.
Diabetes is one of the first diseases described with an Egyptian manuscript from c. 1500 BCE mentioning "too great emptying of the urine." The first described cases are believed to be of type 1 diabetes. Indian physicians around the same time identified the disease and classified it as madhumeha or honey urine noting that the urine would attract ants. The term "diabetes" or "to pass through" was first used in 230 BCE by the Greek Apollonius Of Memphis. The disease was rare during the time of the Roman empire with Galen commenting that he had only seen two cases during his career.
Oral Agents. Oral antidiabetic drugs (see hypoglycemic agents) are sometimes prescribed for patients with type 2 diabetes who cannot control their blood glucose with diet and exercise. These are not oral forms of insulin; they are sulfonylureas, chemically related to the sulfonamide antibiotics. Patients receiving them should be taught that the drug they are taking does not eliminate the need for a diet and exercise program. Only the prescribed dosage should be taken; it should never be increased to make up for dietary indiscretions or discontinued unless authorized by the physician.
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.
Diet, exercise, and education are the cornerstones of treatment of diabetes and often the first recommendations for people with mild diabetes. Weight loss is important for people who are overweight. People who continue to have elevated blood glucose levels despite lifestyle changes, or have very high blood glucose levels and people with type 1 diabetes (no matter their blood glucose levels) also require drugs.
Diabetes mellitus (DM) is a strong predictor of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality and is associated with both micro- and macrovascular complications.1 Cardiovascular disease (CVD) causes up to 70% of all deaths in people with DM. The epidemic of DM will thus be followed by a burden of diabetes-related vascular diseases. The number of DM patients increases with aging of the population, in part because of the increasing prevalence of obesity and sedentary lifestyle. Although the mortality from coronary artery disease (CAD) in patients without DM has declined since the 1990s, the mortality in men with type 2 diabetes (T2DM) has not changed significantly.2 Moreover, DM is an independent risk factor for heart failure. Heart failure is closely related to diabetic cardiomyopathy: changes in the structure and function of the myocardium are not directly linked to CAD or hypertension. Diabetic cardiomyopathy is clinically characterized by an initial increase in left ventricular stiffness and subclinical diastolic dysfunction, gradually compromising left ventricular systolic function with loss of contractile function and progress into overt congestive heart failure. DM accounts for a significant percentage of patients with a diagnosis of heart failure in epidemiologic studies such as the Framingham Study and the UK Prospective Diabetes Study (UKPDS).2 A 1% increase in glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) correlates to an increment of 8% in heart failure.3 The prevalence of heart failure in elderly diabetic patients is up to 30%.3
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.
Insulin is vital to patients with type 1 diabetes - they cannot live without a source of exogenous insulin. Without insulin, patients with type 1 diabetes develop severely elevated blood sugar levels. This leads to increased urine glucose, which in turn leads to excessive loss of fluid and electrolytes in the urine. Lack of insulin also causes the inability to store fat and protein along with breakdown of existing fat and protein stores. This dysregulation, results in the process of ketosis and the release of ketones into the blood. Ketones turn the blood acidic, a condition called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). Symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis include nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Without prompt medical treatment, patients with diabetic ketoacidosis can rapidly go into shock, coma, and even death may result.
In type 1 diabetes (formerly called insulin-dependent diabetes or juvenile-onset diabetes), the body's immune system attacks the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas, and more than 90% of them are permanently destroyed. The pancreas, therefore, produces little or no insulin. Only about 5 to 10% of all people with diabetes have type 1 disease. Most people who have type 1 diabetes develop the disease before age 30, although it can develop later in life.
“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.
One of the most common ways people with type 2 diabetes attempt to lower their blood sugar is by drastically reducing their intake of carbs. The ADA agrees that carbohydrate counting is essential if you have diabetes, but extreme diets like the ketogenic diet, which reduces carb intake to as little as 5 percent of your daily calories, can be risky for some people with diabetes. (36)
The problem with sugar, regardless of type, is the sheer amount of it that’s found in the Standard American Diet (SAD), which is the typical eating plan many people in the United States — as well as those in an increasing number of modernized countries — have developed a taste for. When consumed in excess, foods in this category can lead to heart disease, stroke, and other serious health issues. “Often, foods with added sugar also contain fat,” explains Grieger, noting that these components go hand in hand when it comes to the risk for insulin resistance, the hallmark of type 2 diabetes.
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Research has shown that there are some ways of preventing type 2 diabetes, or at least delaying its onset. Lifestyle changes such as becoming more active (or staying active, if you already engage in regular physical activity) and making sure your weight stays in a healthy range are two ways to help ward off type 2 diabetes, but talk to your doctor about what else you can do to prevent or manage the disease.
There is evidence that certain emotions can promote type 2 diabetes. A recent study found that depression seems to predispose people to diabetes. Other research has tied emotional stress to diabetes, though the link hasn't been proved. Researchers speculate that the emotional connection may have to do with the hormone cortisol, which floods the body during periods of stress. Cortisol sends glucose to the blood, where it can fuel a fight-or-flight response, but overuse of this system may lead to dysfunction.
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.
Oral medications are available to lower blood glucose in Type II diabetics. In 1990, 23.4 outpatient prescriptions for oral antidiabetic agents were dispensed. By 2001, the number had increased to 91.8 million prescriptions. Oral antidiabetic agents accounted for more than $5 billion dollars in worldwide retail sales per year in the early twenty-first century and were the fastest-growing segment of diabetes drugs. The drugs first prescribed for Type II diabetes are in a class of compounds called sulfonylureas and include tolbutamide, tolazamide, acetohexamide, and chlorpropamide. Newer drugs in the same class are now available and include glyburide, glimeperide, and glipizide. How these drugs work is not well understood, however, they seem to stimulate cells of the pancreas to produce more insulin. New medications that are available to treat diabetes include metformin, acarbose, and troglitizone. The choice of medication depends in part on the individual patient profile. All drugs have side effects that may make them inappropriate for particular patients. Some for example, may stimulate weight gain or cause stomach irritation, so they may not be the best treatment for someone who is already overweight or who has stomach ulcers. Others, like metformin, have been shown to have positive effects such as reduced cardiovascular mortality, but but increased risk in other situations. While these medications are an important aspect of treatment for Type II diabetes, they are not a substitute for a well planned diet and moderate exercise. Oral medications have not been shown effective for Type I diabetes, in which the patient produces little or no insulin.
Type 2 DM is primarily due to lifestyle factors and genetics. A number of lifestyle factors are known to be important to the development of type 2 DM, including obesity (defined by a body mass index of greater than 30), 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 Pima Indians and Pacific Islanders. Even those who are not obese often have a high waist–hip ratio.
A1C: Your A1C, also called glycated hemoglobin, reflects your average blood glucose levels for the past 2 to 3 months. If your A1C is 6.5% or greater, your doctor may diagnose diabetes. If your A1C is between 6.0% and 6.4%, your doctor may diagnose prediabetes. Of note, A1C cannot be used to diagnose type 1 diabetes, diabetes in children, adolescents, or pregnant women.
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.
A study by Dabelea et al found that in teenagers and young adults in whom diabetes mellitus had been diagnosed during childhood or adolescence, diabetes-related complications and comorbidities—including diabetic kidney disease, retinopathy, and peripheral neuropathy (but not arterial stiffness or hypertension)—were more prevalent in those with type 2 diabetes than in those with type 1 disease. 
The United Kingdom Prospective Diabetes Study (UKPDS) was a clinical study conducted by Z that was published in The Lancet in 1998. Around 3,800 people with type 2 diabetes were followed for an average of ten years, and were treated with tight glucose control or the standard of care, and again the treatment arm had far better outcomes. This confirmed the importance of tight glucose control, as well as blood pressure control, for people with this condition.
Because both yeast and bacteria multiply more quickly when blood sugar levels are elevated, women with diabetes are overall at a higher risk of feminine health issues, such as bacterial infections, yeast infections, and vaginal thrush, especially when blood sugar isn't well controlled. And a lack of awareness about having prediabetes or diabetes can make managing blood sugar impossible.