"Brittle" diabetes, also known as unstable diabetes or labile diabetes, is a term that was traditionally used to describe the dramatic and recurrent swings in glucose levels, often occurring for no apparent reason in insulin-dependent diabetes. This term, however, has no biologic basis and should not be used. Still, type 1 diabetes can be accompanied by irregular and unpredictable high blood sugar levels, frequently with ketosis, and sometimes with serious low blood sugar levels. Other complications include an impaired counterregulatory response to low blood sugar, infection, gastroparesis (which leads to erratic absorption of dietary carbohydrates), and endocrinopathies (e.g., Addison's disease). These phenomena are believed to occur no more frequently than in 1% to 2% of persons with type 1 diabetes.
^ Jump up to: a b Funnell, Martha M.; Anderson, Robert M. (2008). "Influencing self-management: from compliance to collaboration". In Feinglos, Mark N.; Bethel, M. Angelyn. Type 2 diabetes mellitus: an evidence-based approach to practical management. Contemporary endocrinology. Totowa, NJ: Humana Press. p. 462. ISBN 978-1-58829-794-5. OCLC 261324723.
10. Importance of keeping appointments and staying in touch with a health care provider for consultation and assessment. Periodic evaluation of the binding of glucose to hemoglobin (glycosylated hemoglobin or hemoglobin A1C testing) can give information about the effectiveness of the prescribed regimen and whether any changes need to be made. The ADA position statement on tests of glycemia in diabetes recommends routine testing for all patients with diabetes. It should be a part of the initial assessment of the patient, with subsequent measurements every three months to determine if the patient's metabolic control has been reached and maintained.
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Doctors can also measure the level of a protein, hemoglobin A1C (also called glycosylated or glycolated hemoglobin), in the blood. Hemoglobin is the red, oxygen-carrying substance in red blood cells. When blood is exposed to high blood glucose levels over a period of time, glucose attaches to the hemoglobin and forms glycosylated hemoglobin. The hemoglobin A1C level (reported as the percentage of hemoglobin that is A1C) reflects long-term trends in blood glucose levels rather than rapid changes.
Patients with type 1 diabetes require life-long treatment with exogenous (artificial) insulin to regulate their blood sugar levels. This insulin may be given through the use of a hypodermic needle (seen right), or other methods such as the use of an insulin pump. Over time, many patients suffer chronic complications: vascular, neurological and organ-specific (such as kidney and eye disease). The frequency and severity of these complications is related to duration that the patient has suffered the disease for, and by how well their blood sugar levels have been controlled. If blood sugar levels, blood pressure and lipids are tightly controlled, many complications of diabetes may be prevented. Some patients may develop the major emergency complication of diabetes, known as ketoacidosis (extremely high blood glucose levels accompanied with extremely low insulin levels), which has a mortality rate of 5-10%.
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
Diabetes also can cause heart disease and stroke, as well as other long-term complications, including eye problems, kidney disease, nerve damage, and gum disease. While these problems don't usually show up in kids or teens who've had type 2 diabetes for only a few years, they can affect them in adulthood, particularly if their diabetes isn't well controlled.
You have a higher risk of type 2 diabetes if you are older, have obesity, have a family history of diabetes, or do not exercise. Having prediabetes also increases your risk. Prediabetes means that your blood sugar is higher than normal but not high enough to be called diabetes. If you are at risk for type 2 diabetes, you may be able to delay or prevent developing it by making some lifestyle changes.
Insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus is believed to result from autoimmune, environmental, and/or genetic factors. Whatever the cause, the end result is destruction of insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells, a dramatic decrease in the secretion of insulin, and hyperglycemia. Non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus is presumably heterogeneous in origin. It is associated with older age, obesity, a family history of diabetes, and ethnicity (genetic components). The vast majority of those with non-insulin-dependent diabetes are overweight Kahn (2003). This form of the disorder has a much slower rate of progression than insulin-dependent diabetes. Over time the ability to respond to insulin decreases, resulting in increased levels of blood glucose. The pancreatic secretion of insulin increases in an attempt to compensate for the elevated levels of glucose. If the condition is untreated, the pancreatic production of insulin decreases and may even cease.
“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.
Autonomic changes involving cardiovascular control (eg, heart rate, postural responses) have been described in as many as 40% of children with diabetes. Cardiovascular control changes become more likely with increasing duration and worsening control.  In a study by 253 patients with type 1 diabetes (mean age at baseline 14.4 y), Cho et al reported that the prevalence of cardiac autonomic dysfunction increases in association with higher body mass index and central adiposity. 
Doctors can monitor treatment using a blood test called hemoglobin A1C. When the blood glucose levels are high, changes occur in hemoglobin, the protein that carries oxygen in the blood. These changes are in direct proportion to the blood glucose levels over an extended period. The higher the hemoglobin A1C level, the higher the person's glucose levels have been. Thus, unlike the blood glucose measurement, which reveals the level at a particular moment, the hemoglobin A1Cmeasurement demonstrates whether the blood glucose levels have been controlled over the previous few months.
The patient, physician, nurse, and dietician must carefully evaluate the patient's life style, nutritional needs, and ability to comply with the proposed dietary prescription. There are a variety of meal planning systems that can be used by the patient with diabetes; each has benefits and drawbacks that need to be evaluated in order to maximize compliance. Two of the most frequently used ones are the exchange system (see accompanying table) and the carbohydrate counting system.
The 1989 "St. Vincent Declaration" was the result of international efforts to improve the care accorded to those with diabetes. Doing so is important not only in terms of quality of life and life expectancy but also economically – expenses due to diabetes have been shown to be a major drain on health – and productivity-related resources for healthcare systems and governments.
Yet carbs are processed differently in the body based on their type: While simple carbs are digested and metabolized quickly, complex carbs take longer to go through this system, resulting in more stable blood sugar. “It comes down to their chemical forms: A simple carbohydrate has a simpler chemical makeup, so it doesn’t take as much for it to be digested, whereas the complex ones take a little longer,” Grieger explains.
Diabetes can also be diagnosed if a blood glucose level taken any time of the day without regards to meals is 11.1 mmol/L or higher, plus you have symptoms characteristic of diabetes (e.g., increase thirst, increase urination, unexplained weight loss). A doctor may also examine the eyes for signs of damage to the blood vessels of the retina (back of the eye). Finally, diabetes mellitus is diagnosed if the 3-month cumulative blood sugar average test, known as hemoglobin A1C or glycated hemoglobin, is 6.5% or higher.
Regular insulin is fast-acting and starts to work within 15-30 minutes, with its peak glucose-lowering effect about two hours after it is injected. Its effects last for about four to six hours. NPH (neutral protamine Hagedorn) and Lente insulin are intermediate-acting, starting to work within one to three hours and lasting up to 18-26 hours. Ultra-lente is a long-acting form of insulin that starts to work within four to eight hours and lasts 28-36 hours.
Manage mild hypoglycemia by giving rapidly absorbed oral carbohydrate or glucose; for a comatose patient, administer an intramuscular injection of the hormone glucagon, which stimulates the release of liver glycogen and releases glucose into the circulation. Where appropriate, an alternative therapy is intravenous glucose (preferably no more than a 10% glucose solution). All treatments for hypoglycemia provide recovery in approximately 10 minutes. (See Treatment.)
Monitoring your caloric intake may be helpful if you’re overweight, but everyone with type 2 diabetes should track how many carbs they’re taking in. That can be tricky because carbs are in many of the common foods you may already eat, but there are both good and bad sources of carbs. Fruits and vegetables, for example, are good sources, while pretzels and cookies are bad sources. (29)
But preventing the disease from progressing if you already have it requires first being able to spot the signs and symptoms of diabetes when they appear. While some type 2 diabetes symptoms may not ever show up, you can watch out for the following common signs of the disease and alert your doctor, especially if you have any of the common risk factors for diabetes. Also keep in mind that while most signs of type 2 diabetes are the same in men and women, there are some distinctions.