Diabetes mellitus is a group of metabolic diseases characterized by high blood sugar (glucose) levels that result from defects in insulin secretion, or its action, or both. Diabetes mellitus, commonly referred to as diabetes (as it will be in this article) was first identified as a disease associated with "sweet urine," and excessive muscle loss in the ancient world. Elevated levels of blood glucose (hyperglycemia) lead to spillage of glucose into the urine, hence the term sweet urine.
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.
There’s no cure for type 1 diabetes. People with type 1 diabetes don’t produce insulin, so it must be regularly injected into your body. Some people take injections into the soft tissue, such as the stomach, arm, or buttocks, several times per day. Other people use insulin pumps. Insulin pumps supply a steady amount of insulin into the body through a small tube.
The most common test used to diagnose diabetes is the fasting blood glucose. This test measures the glucose levels at a specific moment in time (normal is 80-110 mg/dl). In managing diabetes, the goal is to normalize blood glucose levels. It is generally accepted that by maintaining normalized blood glucose levels, one may delay or even prevent some of the complications associated with diabetes. Measures to manage diabetes include behavioral modification (proper diet, exercise) and drug therapies (oral hypoglycemics, insulin replacement). The choice of therapy prescribed takes into consideration the type and severity of the disease present and patient compliance. The physician may request the patient keep a log of their daily blood glucose measurements, in an effort to better assess therapeutic success. Another commonly obtained test is the hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), which is a surrogate marker used to assess blood glucose levels over an extended period (2-3 months). This test provides the physician with a good picture of the patient’s glucose levels over time.
With such a surplus of food nowadays, it's easy to overindulge without physical activity, leading to weight gain and, for some people, eventual Type 2 diabetes. "It's a lack of exercise and still eating like you're 20 years old," says Susan M. De Abate, a nurse and certified diabetes educator and team coordinator of the diabetes education program at Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital.
Can type 2 diabetes be cured? In the early stages of type 2 diabetes, it is possible to manage the diabetes to a level where symptoms go away and A1c reaches a normal level – this effectively “reverses” the progression of type 2 diabetes. According to research from Newcastle University, major weight loss can return insulin secretion to normal in people who had type 2 diabetes for four years or less. Indeed, it is commonly believed that significant weight loss and building muscle mass is the best way to reverse type 2 diabetes progression. However, it is important to note that reversing diabetes progression is not the same as curing type 2 diabetes – people still need to monitor their weight, diet, and exercise to ensure that type 2 diabetes does not progress. For many people who have had type 2 diabetes for a longer time, the damage to the beta cells progresses to the point at which it will never again be possible to make enough insulin to correctly control blood glucose, even with dramatic weight loss. But even in these people, weight loss is likely the best way to reduce the threat of complications.
Exercise is very important if you have this health condition. Exercise makes cells more insulin sensitive, pulling glucose out of the blood. This brings down blood sugar, and more importantly, gives you better energy because the glucose is being transferred to the cells. Any type of exercise will do this, but extra benefit is gained when the activity helps build muscle, such as weight training or using resistance bands. The benefits of exercise on blood sugar last about 48-72 hours, so it is important for you to be physically active almost every day.
Incidence and Prevalence. It has been estimated that slightly over 6 per cent of the population is affected by some form of diabetes, or 17 million people in the USA and 1.2 to 1.4 million in Canada; many of these individuals are not diagnosed. Diabetes is ranked third as a cause of death, although the life span of patients with diabetes has increased due to improved methods of detection and better management. There is no cure for diabetes at the present time, but enormous strides have been made in the control of the disease. The patient must understand the importance of compliance with the entire treatment plan, including diet, exercise, and in some cases medication. The patient with diabetes is at increased risk for cardiovascular disease, renal failure, neuropathies, and diabetic retinopathy. Research studies such as the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial have indicated that tight control of blood glucose levels resulted in the delay or prevention of retinopathy, nephropathy, and neuropathy.
It's not as clear what the rest of the type 1 genes are up to, but researchers are eager to find out. "Even though something accounts for a small part [of the genetic risk], it could have a significant impact," says Stephen Rich, PhD, director of the Center for Public Health Genomics at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. Understanding these genes' role may clue researchers in to less obvious biological pathways involved in type 1 diabetes, and to possible prevention strategies.
Insulin is only recommended for individuals for type 2 diabetics when they have not been able to get blood sugars low enough to prevent complications through other means. To avoid insulin, those with this health condition should work very hard to follow a healthy eating plan that includes a lot of vegetables and lean proteins, exercise every day, and keep stress in perspective. They also should take their oral drugs regularly. It can be difficult to follow these recommendations and the help of your doctor, nutritionist, diabetes educator, health coach, or integrative medicine practitioner may be helpful. If you who want to avoid taking medicine, work with health professionals who are knowledgeable about lifestyle medicine, and can help you understand how to fit the changes into your life.
Some patients with type 2 DM can control their disease with a calorically restricted diet (for instance 1600 to 1800 cal/day), regular aerobic exercise, and weight loss. Most patients, however, require the addition of some form of oral hypoglycemic drug or insulin. Oral agents to control DM include sulfonylurea drugs (such as glipizide), which increase pancreatic secretion of insulin; biguanides or thiazolidinediones (such as metformin or pioglitazone), which increase cellular sensitivity to insulin; or a-glucosidase inhibitors (such as acarbose), which decrease the absorption of carbohydrates from the gastrointestinal tract. Both types of diabetics also may be prescribed pramlintide (Symlin), a synthetic analog of human amylin, a hormone manufactured in the pancreatic beta cells. It enhances postprandial glucose control by slowing gastric emptying, decreasing postprandial glucagon concentrations, and regulating appetite and food intake; thus pramlintide is helpful for patients who do not achieve optimal glucose control with insulin and/or oral antidiabetic agents. When combinations of these agents fail to normalize blood glucose levels, insulin injections are added. Tight glucose control can reduce the patient’s risk of many of the complications of the disease. See: illustration
Abnormal cholesterol and triglyceride levels. If you have low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good," cholesterol, your risk of type 2 diabetes is higher. Triglycerides are another type of fat carried in the blood. People with high levels of triglycerides have an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. Your doctor can let you know what your cholesterol and triglyceride levels are.
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)
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.
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.
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.
According to the Mayo Clinic, doctors may use other tests to diagnose diabetes. For example, they may conduct a fasting blood glucose test, which is a blood glucose test done after a night of fasting. While a fasting blood sugar level of less than 100 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) is normal, one that is between 100 to 125 mg/dL signals prediabetes, and a reading that reaches 126 mg/dL on two separate occasions means you have diabetes.