Type 1 diabetes mellitus has wide geographic variation in incidence and prevalence.  Annual incidence varies from 0.61 cases per 100,000 population in China to 41.4 cases per 100,000 population in Finland. Substantial variations are observed between nearby countries with differing lifestyles, such as Estonia and Finland, and between genetically similar populations, such as those in Iceland and Norway.
Home blood glucose monitoring kits are available so patients with diabetes can monitor their own levels. A small needle or lancet is used to prick the finger and a drop of blood is collected and analyzed by a monitoring device. Some patients may test their blood glucose levels several times during a day and use this information to adjust their doses of insulin.
According to the Mayo Clinic, your risk of developing type 2 diabetes increases as you age. Your risk goes up after age 45 in particular. However, the incidence of type 2 diabetes is increasing dramatically among children, adolescents, and younger adults. Likely factors include reduced exercise, decreased muscle mass, and weight gain as you age. Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed by the age of 30.
The World Health Organization recommends testing those groups at high risk and in 2014 the USPSTF is considering a similar recommendation. High-risk groups in the United States include: those over 45 years old; those with a first degree relative with diabetes; some ethnic groups, including Hispanics, African-Americans, and Native-Americans; a history of gestational diabetes; polycystic ovary syndrome; excess weight; and conditions associated with metabolic syndrome. The American Diabetes Association recommends screening those who have a BMI over 25 (in people of Asian descent screening is recommended for a BMI over 23).
While there is a strong genetic component to developing this form of diabetes, there are other risk factors - the most significant of which is obesity. There is a direct relationship between the degree of obesity and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and this holds true in children as well as adults. It is estimated that the chance to develop diabetes doubles for every 20% increase over desirable body weight.
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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.
Type 2 diabetes primarily occurs as a result of obesity and lack of exercise. Some people are more genetically at risk than others. Type 2 diabetes makes up about 90% of cases of diabetes, with the other 10% due primarily to diabetes mellitus type 1 and gestational diabetes. In diabetes mellitus type 1 there is a lower total level of insulin to control blood glucose, due to an autoimmune induced loss of insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. Diagnosis of diabetes is by blood tests such as fasting plasma glucose, oral glucose tolerance test, or glycated hemoglobin (A1C).
The woman’s weight may also play a role. Changing hormone levels and weight gain are part of a healthy pregnancy, but both changes make it more difficult for the body to keep up with its need for insulin. This may lead to gestational diabetes. As pregnancy progresses, the placenta also produces insulin-blocking hormones, which might result in a woman’s blood-glucose levels becoming elevated if there isn’t enough insulin to counter this effect.
Onset of type 2 diabetes can be delayed or prevented through proper nutrition and regular exercise. Intensive lifestyle measures may reduce the risk by over half. The benefit of exercise occurs regardless of the person's initial weight or subsequent weight loss. High levels of physical activity reduce the risk of diabetes by about 28%. Evidence for the benefit of dietary changes alone, however, is limited, with some evidence for a diet high in green leafy vegetables and some for limiting the intake of sugary drinks. In those with impaired glucose tolerance, diet and exercise either alone or in combination with metformin or acarbose may decrease the risk of developing diabetes. Lifestyle interventions are more effective than metformin. A 2017 review found that, long term, lifestyle changes decreased the risk by 28%, while medication does not reduce risk after withdrawal. While low vitamin D levels are associated with an increased risk of diabetes, correcting the levels by supplementing vitamin D3 does not improve that risk.
Type 2 diabetes, which is often diagnosed when a person has an A1C of at least 7 on two separate occasions, can lead to potentially serious issues, like neuropathy, or nerve damage; vision problems; an increased risk of heart disease; and other diabetes complications. A person’s A1C is the two- to three-month average of his or her blood sugar levels.