The classic symptoms of diabetes such as polyuria, polydypsia and polyphagia occur commonly in type 1 diabetes, which has a rapid development of severe hyperglycaemia and also in type 2 diabetes with very high levels of hyperglycaemia. Severe weight loss is common only in type 1 diabetes or if type 2 diabetes remains undetected for a long period. Unexplained weight loss, fatigue and restlessness and body pain are also common signs of undetected diabetes. Symptoms that are mild or have gradual development could also remain unnoticed.
Insulin is a hormone that — in people without diabetes — ferries glucose, or blood sugar, to cells for energy or to be stored for later use. In people with diabetes, cells are resistant to insulin; as a result of this insulin resistance, sugar accumulates in the blood. While eating sugar by itself does not cause insulin resistance, Grieger says, foods with sugar and fat can contribute to weight gain, thereby reducing insulin sensitivity in the body.
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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
In this health topic, we discuss hyperglycemic hyperosmolar nonketotic syndrome (HHNS), an extremely serious complication that can lead to diabetic coma and even death in type 2 diabetes. This serious condition occurs when the blood sugar gets too high and the body becomes severely dehydrated. To prevent HHNS and diabetic coma in type 2 diabetes, check your blood sugar regularly as recommended by your health care provider; check your blood sugar more frequently when you are sick, drink plenty of fluids, and watch for signs of dehydration.