It is a considerable challenge to obtain the goals of the intensively treated patients in the DCCT with the vast majority of people with diabetes given the more limited health care resources typically available in routine practice. If diabetes control can be improved without significant damage to quality of life, the economic, health, and quality of life savings associated with a reduction in complications in later life will be vast. Although some people who have had poorly controlled diabetes over many years do not develop complications, complications commonly arise after 15–20 years of diabetes and individuals in their 40s or even 30s may develop several complications in rapid succession. However, up until the early 1980s, patients had no way of monitoring their own blood glucose levels at home. Urine glucose monitoring only told them when their blood glucose had exceeded the renal threshold of approximately 10 mmol/L (i.e., was far too high), without being able to discriminate between the too high levels of 7–10 mmol/L or the hypoglycemic levels below 4 mmol/L. Clinics relied on random blood glucose testing and there were no measures of average blood glucose over a longer period. Since the 1980s there have been measures of glycosylated hemoglobin (GHb, HbA1, or HbA1c) which indicate average blood glucose over a six to eight week period and measures of glycosylated protein, fructosamine, which indicates average blood glucose over a two-week period. Blood-glucose meters for patients were first introduced in the early 1980s and the accuracy and convenience of the meters and the reagent strips they use has improved dramatically since early models. By the late 1990s blood-glucose monitoring is part of the daily routine for most people using insulin in developed countries. Blood-glucose monitoring is less often prescribed for tablet- and diet-alone-treated patients, financial reasons probably being allowed to outweigh the educational value of accurate feedback in improving control long term. The reduced risk of hypoglycemia and diabetic ketoacidosis in NIDDM patients not using insulin means that acute crises rarely arise in these patients though their risk of long-term complications is at least as great as in IDDM and might be expected to be reduced if feedback from blood-glucose monitoring were provided.
Type 2 DM is primarily due to lifestyle factors and genetics. A number of lifestyle factors are known to be important to the development of type 2 DM, including obesity (defined by a body mass index of greater than 30), lack of physical activity, poor diet, stress, and urbanization. Excess body fat is associated with 30% of cases in those of Chinese and Japanese descent, 60–80% of cases in those of European and African descent, and 100% of Pima Indians and Pacific Islanders. Even those who are not obese often have a high waist–hip ratio.
Most pediatric patients with diabetes have type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) and a lifetime dependence on exogenous insulin. Diabetes mellitus (DM) is a chronic metabolic disorder caused by an absolute or relative deficiency of insulin, an anabolic hormone. Insulin is produced by the beta cells of the islets of Langerhans located in the pancreas, and the absence, destruction, or other loss of these cells results in type 1 diabetes (insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus [IDDM]). A possible mechanism for the development of type 1 diabetes is shown in the image below. (See Etiology.)
In addition to the problems with an increase in insulin resistance, the release of insulin by the pancreas may also be defective and suboptimal. In fact, there is a known steady decline in beta cell production of insulin in type 2 diabetes that contributes to worsening glucose control. (This is a major factor for many patients with type 2 diabetes who ultimately require insulin therapy.) Finally, the liver in these patients continues to produce glucose through a process called gluconeogenesis despite elevated glucose levels. The control of gluconeogenesis becomes compromised.
In type 2 diabetes (formerly called non– insulin-dependent diabetes or adult-onset diabetes), the pancreas often continues to produce insulin, sometimes even at higher-than-normal levels, especially early in the disease. However, the body develops resistance to the effects of insulin, so there is not enough insulin to meet the body’s needs. As type 2 diabetes progresses, the insulin-producing ability of the pancreas decreases.
The causes of diabetes mellitus are unclear, however, there seem to be both hereditary (genetic factors passed on in families) and environmental factors involved. Research has shown that some people who develop diabetes have common genetic markers. In Type I diabetes, the immune system, the body's defense system against infection, is believed to be triggered by a virus or another microorganism that destroys cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. In Type II diabetes, age, obesity, and family history of diabetes play a role.
Can type 2 diabetes be prevented? It is possible to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, although the underlying risk of type 2 diabetes depends strongly on genetic factors. But there was less type 2 diabetes around some years ago when people had a more active life and didn’t eat a modern Western diet. So it is fair to say that risk of getting type 2 diabetes is based on a genetic predisposition that is aggravated by lifestyle. Type 2 diabetes is associated with obesity, as well as a variety of environmental factors. To lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes (as well as other diseases), it is highly recommended to exercise often, eat healthily, and maintain a healthy weight.
High blood glucose sets up a domino effect of sorts within your body. High blood sugar leads to increased production of urine and the need to urinate more often. Frequent urination causes you to lose a lot of fluid and become dehydrated. Consequently, you develop a dry mouth and feel thirsty more often. If you notice that you are drinking more than usual, or that your mouth often feels dry and you feel thirsty more often, these could be signs of type 2 diabetes.