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."
There is currently no cure for diabetes. The condition, however, can be managed so that patients can live a relatively normal life. Treatment of diabetes focuses on two goals: keeping blood glucose within normal range and preventing the development of long-term complications. Careful monitoring of diet, exercise, and blood glucose levels are as important as the use of insulin or oral medications in preventing complications of diabetes. In 2003, the American Diabetes Association updated its Standards of Care for the management of diabetes. These standards help manage health care providers in the most recent recommendations for diagnosis and treatment of the disease.
Test Your Blood Sugar: Blood sugar testing is an important part of helping to manage your diabetes. Whether you choose to do selective blood sugar testing or test your blood sugar at the same times daily, blood sugar testing gives you another piece of information and can help you change your diet and adjust your fitness routine or medicines. Keeping your blood sugars at target will help to reduce diabetes complications.
Although there are dozens of known type 1 genes, about half of the risk attributable to heredity comes from a handful that coordinate a part of the immune system called HLA, which helps the body recognize nefarious foreign invaders, such as viruses, bacteria, and parasites. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, in which the body's own immune system destroys the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, so perhaps it is no surprise that immunity genes are involved. Other autoimmune diseases share the HLA gene link, which may be why people with type 1 are more likely to develop additional autoimmune disorders.
Type 2 diabetes is a condition of blood sugar dysregulation. In general blood sugar is too high, but it also can be too low. This can happen if you take medications then skip a meal. Blood sugar also can rise very quickly after a high glycemic index meal, and then fall a few hours later, plummeting into hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). The signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia can include
"We know that there is a very large genetic component," Rettinger says. "A person with a first-degree relative with Type 2 diabetes has a five to 10 time higher risk of developing diabetes than a person the same age and weight without a family history of Type 2 diabetes." Heredity actually plays a larger role in Type 2 diabetes than Type 1, Rettinger says.
DM affects at least 16 million U.S. residents, ranks seventh as a cause of death in the United States, and costs the national economy over $100 billion yearly. The striking increase in the prevalence of DM in the U.S. during recent years has been linked to a rise in the prevalence of obesity. About 95% of those with DM have Type 2, in which the pancreatic beta cells retain some insulin-producing potential, and the rest have Type 1, in which exogenous insulin is required for long-term survival. In Type 1 DM, which typically causes symptoms before age 25, an autoimmune process is responsible for beta cell destruction. Type 2 DM is characterized by insulin resistance in peripheral tissues as well as a defect in insulin secretion by beta cells. Insulin regulates carbohydrate metabolism by mediating the rapid transport of glucose and amino acids from the circulation into muscle and other tissue cells, by promoting the storage of glucose in liver cells as glycogen, and by inhibiting gluconeogenesis. The normal stimulus for the release of insulin from the pancreas is a rise in the concentration of glucose in circulating blood, which typically occurs within a few minutes after a meal. When such a rise elicits an appropriate insulin response, so that the blood level of glucose falls again as it is taken into cells, glucose tolerance is said to be normal. The central fact in DM is an impairment of glucose tolerance of such a degree as to threaten or impair health. Long recognized as an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease, DM is often associated with other risk factors, including disorders of lipid metabolism (elevation of very-low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and triglycerides and depression of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol), obesity, hypertension, and impairment of renal function. Sustained elevation of serum glucose and triglycerides aggravates the biochemical defect inherent in DM by impairing insulin secretion, insulin-mediated glucose uptake by cells, and hepatic regulation of glucose output. Long-term consequences of the diabetic state include macrovascular complications (premature or accelerated atherosclerosis with resulting coronary, cerebral, and peripheral vascular insufficiency) and microvascular complications (retinopathy, nephropathy, and neuropathy). It is estimated that half those with DM already have some complications when the diagnosis is made. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends screening for DM for people with risk factors such as obesity, age 45 years or older, family history of DM, or history of gestational diabetes. If screening yields normal results, it should be repeated every 3 years. The diagnosis of DM depends on measurement of plasma glucose concentration. The diagnosis is confirmed when any two measurements of plasma glucose performed on different days yield levels at or above established thresholds: in the fasting state, 126 mg/dL (7 mmol/L); 2 hours postprandially (after a 75-g oral glucose load) or at random, 200 mg/dL (11.1 mmol/L). A fasting plasma glucose of 100-125 mg/dL (5.5-6.9 mmol/L) or a 2-hour postprandial glucose of 140-199 mg/dL (7.8-11 mmol/L) is defined as impaired glucose tolerance. People with impaired glucose tolerance are at higher risk of developing DM within 10 years. For such people, lifestyle modification such as weight reduction and exercise may prevent or postpone the onset of frank DM. Current recommendations for the management of DM emphasize education and individualization of therapy. Controlled studies have shown that rigorous maintenance of plasma glucose levels as near to normal as possible at all times substantially reduces the incidence and severity of long-term complications, particularly microvascular complications. Such control involves limitation of dietary carbohydrate and saturated fat; monitoring of blood glucose, including self-testing by the patient and periodic determination of glycosylated hemoglobin; and administration of insulin (particularly in Type 1 DM), drugs that stimulate endogenous insulin production (in Type 2 DM), or both. The ADA recommends inclusion of healthful carbohydrate-containing foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat milk in a diabetic diet. Restriction of dietary fat to less than 10% of total calories is recommended for people with diabetes, as for the general population. Further restriction may be appropriate for those with heart disease or elevated cholesterol or triglyceride levels. The ADA advises that high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets have no particular merit in long-term weight control or in maintenance of a normal plasma glucose level in DM. Pharmaceutical agents developed during the 1990s improve control of DM by enhancing responsiveness of cells to insulin, counteracting insulin resistance, and reducing postprandial carbohydrate absorption. Tailor-made insulin analogues produced by recombinant DNA technology (for example, lispro, aspart, and glargine insulins) have broadened the range of pharmacologic properties and treatment options available. Their use improves both short-term and long-term control of plasma glucose and is associated with fewer episodes of hypoglycemia. SEE ALSO insulin resistance
Insulin is a hormone that is produced by specialized cells (beta cells) of the pancreas. (The pancreas is a deep-seated organ in the abdomen located behind the stomach.) In addition to helping glucose enter the cells, insulin is also important in tightly regulating the level of glucose in the blood. After a meal, the blood glucose level rises. In response to the increased glucose level, the pancreas normally releases more insulin into the bloodstream to help glucose enter the cells and lower blood glucose levels after a meal. When the blood glucose levels are lowered, the insulin release from the pancreas is turned down. It is important to note that even in the fasting state there is a low steady release of insulin than fluctuates a bit and helps to maintain a steady blood sugar level during fasting. In normal individuals, such a regulatory system helps to keep blood glucose levels in a tightly controlled range. As outlined above, in patients with diabetes, the insulin is either absent, relatively insufficient for the body's needs, or not used properly by the body. All of these factors cause elevated levels of blood glucose (hyperglycemia).
Excessive thirst typically goes hand-in-hand with increased urination. As your body pulls water out of the tissues to dilute your blood and to rid your body of sugar through the urine, the urge to drink increases. Many people describe this thirst as an unquenchable one. To stay hydrated, you drink excessive amounts of liquids. And if those liquids contain simple sugars (soda, sweet iced tea, lemonade, or juice, for example) your sugars will skyrocket even higher.
Periodontal Disease. Periodontal disease is a commonly observed dental problem for patients with diabetes. It is similar to the periodontal disease encountered among nondiabetic patients. However, as a consequence of the impaired immunity and healing associated with diabetes, it may be more severe and progress more rapidly (see Right). The potential for these changes points to the need for periodic professional evaluation and treatment.
The body’s immune system is responsible for fighting off foreign invaders, like harmful viruses and bacteria. In people with type 1 diabetes, the immune system mistakes the body’s own healthy cells for foreign invaders. The immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. After these beta cells are destroyed, the body is unable to produce insulin.
A metabolic disease in which carbohydrate use is reduced and that of lipid and protein enhanced; it is caused by an absolute or relative deficiency of insulin and is characterized, in more severe cases, by chronic hyperglycemia, glycosuria, water and electrolyte loss, ketoacidosis, and coma; long-term complications include neuropathy, retinopathy, nephropathy, generalized degenerative changes in large and small blood vessels, and increased susceptibility to infection.
People with diabetes aim for a hemoglobin A1C level of less than 7%. Achieving this level is difficult, but the lower the hemoglobin A1C level, the less likely people are to have complications. Doctors may recommend a slightly higher or lower target for certain people depending on their particular health situation. However, levels above 9% show poor control, and levels above 12% show very poor control. Most doctors who specialize in diabetes care recommend that hemoglobin A1C be measured every 3 to 6 months.
And go easy on yourself: Sometimes you can be doing everything perfectly and your blood sugars start to creep up. Because diabetes is a progressive disease, your body slowly stops making insulin over time. If you've had diabetes for a very long time, try not to be discouraged if your doctor has to increase your medication or discusses insulin with you. Continue to do what you can to improve your health.
Aspirin should be used as secondary prophylaxis in all diabetic people with evidence of macrovascular disease, and it should be strongly considered as primary prevention in diabetic subjects with other risk factors for macrovascular disease, such as hypertension, cigarette smoking, dyslipidemia, obesity, and albuminuria (macro or micro).228 Because of the platelet defects associated with diabetes, it is recommended that the dose of aspirin should be 300 mg per day,228–230 although the American Diabetes Association’s position statement (http://www.diabetes.org/DiabetesCare/supplement198/s45.htm) advocates a dose of 81 to 325 mg enteric-coated aspirin per day. If the patient cannot tolerate aspirin, then clopidogrel231 can be used.
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.
The major eye complication of diabetes is called diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy occurs in patients who have had diabetes for at least five years. Diseased small blood vessels in the back of the eye cause the leakage of protein and blood in the retina. Disease in these blood vessels also causes the formation of small aneurysms (microaneurysms), and new but brittle blood vessels (neovascularization). Spontaneous bleeding from the new and brittle blood vessels can lead to retinal scarring and retinal detachment, thus impairing vision.
People with full-blown type 2 diabetes are not able to use the hormone insulin properly, and have what’s called insulin resistance. Insulin is necessary for glucose, or sugar, to get from your blood into your cells to be used for energy. When there is not enough insulin — or when the hormone doesn’t function as it should — glucose accumulates in the blood instead of being used by the cells. This sugar accumulation may lead to the aforementioned complications.