Insulin, a hormone released from the pancreas (an organ behind the stomach that also produces digestive enzymes), controls the amount of glucose in the blood. Glucose in the bloodstream stimulates the pancreas to produce insulin. Insulin helps glucose to move from the blood into the cells. Once inside the cells, glucose is converted to energy, which is used immediately, or the glucose is stored as fat or glycogen until it is needed.
Poor vision, limited manual dexterity due to arthritis, tremor, or stroke, or other physical limitations may make monitoring blood glucose levels more difficult for older people. However, special monitors are available. Some have large numerical displays that are easier to read. Some provide audible instructions and results. Some monitors read blood glucose levels through the skin and do not require a blood sample. People can consult a diabetes educator to determine which meter is most appropriate.
It’s not uncommon for patients to suddenly feel unsteady and immediately need to reach for carbs, says Marjorie Cypress, a nurse practitioner at an endocrinology clinic in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and 2014 president of health care and education for the American Diabetes Association. “When you have high blood sugar, your body has a problem regulating its glucose,” she explains. “If you’ve eaten something high in carbohydrates, your body shoots out a little too much insulin, and your glucose drops quickly. This makes you feel shaky, and you tend to crave carbs or sugar. This can lead to a vicious cycle.” These are the best foods for someone on a diabetic diet.
Blood sugar should be regularly monitored so that any problems can be detected and treated early. Treatment involves lifestyle changes such as eating a healthy and balanced diet and regular physical exercise. If lifestyle changes alone are not enough to regulate the blood glucose level, anti-diabetic medication in the form of tablets or injections may be prescribed. In some cases, people who have had type 2 diabetes for many years are eventually prescribed insulin injections.
Using insulin to get blood glucose levels to a healthy level is a good thing, not a bad one. For most people, type 2 diabetes is a progressive disease. When first diagnosed, many people with type 2 diabetes can keep their blood glucose at a healthy level with a combination of meal planning, physical activity, and taking oral medications. But over time, the body gradually produces less and less of its own insulin, and eventually oral medications may not be enough to keep blood glucose levels in a healthy range.
As of 2016, 422 million people have diabetes worldwide, up from an estimated 382 million people in 2013 and from 108 million in 1980. Accounting for the shifting age structure of the global population, the prevalence of diabetes is 8.5% among adults, nearly double the rate of 4.7% in 1980. Type 2 makes up about 90% of the cases. Some data indicate rates are roughly equal in women and men, but male excess in diabetes has been found in many populations with higher type 2 incidence, possibly due to sex-related differences in insulin sensitivity, consequences of obesity and regional body fat deposition, and other contributing factors such as high blood pressure, tobacco smoking, and alcohol intake.
The good news is that if you have diabetes, you have a great amount of control in managing your disease. Although it can be difficult to manage a disease on a daily basis, the resources and support for people with diabetes is endless. It's important for you to receive as much education as possible so that you can take advantage of all the good information that is out there (and weed out the bad).
Type 2 DM is characterized by insulin resistance, which may be combined with relatively reduced insulin secretion. The defective responsiveness of body tissues to insulin is believed to involve the insulin receptor. However, the specific defects are not known. Diabetes mellitus cases due to a known defect are classified separately. Type 2 DM is the most common type of diabetes mellitus.
Type 2 diabetes mellitus (non–insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus [NIDDM]) is a heterogeneous disorder. Most patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus have insulin resistance, and their beta cells lack the ability to overcome this resistance.  Although this form of diabetes was previously uncommon in children, in some countries, 20% or more of new patients with diabetes in childhood and adolescence have type 2 diabetes mellitus, a change associated with increased rates of obesity. Other patients may have inherited disorders of insulin release, leading to maturity onset diabetes of the young (MODY) or congenital diabetes. [7, 8, 9] This topic addresses only type 1 diabetes mellitus. (See Etiology and Epidemiology.)
Is type 2 diabetes serious? Type 2 diabetes is not a death sentence, but it is a very serious disease that demands attention and careful monitoring. There is no such thing as ‘mild’ diabetes. Elevated glucose levels can damage the nervous system, blood vessels, eyes, heart, and kidneys. These complications really impact quality of life (through blindness, amputations, dialysis etc). They also significantly increase the chance of a stroke or heart attack. Managing blood glucose levels immediately, along with other health risk factors (e.g., cholesterol, blood pressure, weight), is necessary for preventing these complications. Losing even a small amount of weight and keeping it off can also improve glucose control as well as have other clinical benefits (read more tips on managing diet and exercise below for more on weight loss). Keep in mind that better diabetes management also has benefits in the here and now – mood and energy levels are adversely affected when your glucose levels are high.
Doctors and people with diabetes have observed that infections seem more common if you have diabetes. Research in this area, however, has not proved whether this is entirely true, nor why. It may be that high levels of blood sugar impair your body's natural healing process and your ability to fight infections. For women, bladder and vaginal infections are especially common.
Diabetes experts feel that these blood glucose monitoring devices give patients a significant amount of independence to manage their disease process; and they are a great tool for education as well. It is also important to remember that these devices can be used intermittently with fingerstick measurements. For example, a well-controlled patient with diabetes can rely on fingerstick glucose checks a few times a day and do well. If they become ill, if they decide to embark on a new exercise regimen, if they change their diet and so on, they can use the sensor to supplement their fingerstick regimen, providing more information on how they are responding to new lifestyle changes or stressors. This kind of system takes us one step closer to closing the loop, and to the development of an artificial pancreas that senses insulin requirements based on glucose levels and the body's needs and releases insulin accordingly - the ultimate goal.
Arlan L Rosenbloom, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Epidemiology, American Pediatric Society, Endocrine Society, Pediatric Endocrine Society, Society for Pediatric Research, Florida Chapter of The American Academy of Pediatrics, Florida Pediatric Society, International Society for Pediatric and Adolescent Diabetes
The blood glucose levels may jump after people eat foods they did not realize were high in carbohydrates. Emotional stress, an infection, and many drugs tend to increase blood glucose levels. Blood glucose levels increase in many people in the early morning hours because of the normal release of hormones (growth hormone and cortisol), a reaction called the dawn phenomenon. Blood glucose may shoot too high if the body releases certain hormones in response to low blood glucose levels (Somogyi effect). Exercise may cause the levels of glucose in the blood to fall low.
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).
Although many of the symptoms of type 1 and type 2 diabetes are similar, they present in very different ways. Many people with type 2 diabetes won’t have symptoms for many years. Then often the symptoms of type 2 diabetes develop slowly over the course of time. Some people with type 2 diabetes have no symptoms at all and don’t discover their condition until complications develop.
Managing your blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol, and quitting smoking if you smoke, are important ways to manage your type 2 diabetes. Lifestyle changes that include planning healthy meals, limiting calories if you are overweight, and being physically active are also part of managing your diabetes. So is taking any prescribed medicines. Work with your health care team to create a diabetes care plan that works for you.
On behalf of the millions of Americans who live with or are at risk for diabetes, we are committed to helping you understand this chronic disease. Help us set the record straight and educate the world about diabetes and its risk factors by sharing the common questions and answers below. If you're new to type 2 diabetes, join our Living With Type 2 Diabetes program to get more facts.
Jump up ^ Palmer, Suetonia C.; Mavridis, Dimitris; Nicolucci, Antonio; Johnson, David W.; Tonelli, Marcello; Craig, Jonathan C.; Maggo, Jasjot; Gray, Vanessa; De Berardis, Giorgia; Ruospo, Marinella; Natale, Patrizia; Saglimbene, Valeria; Badve, Sunil V.; Cho, Yeoungjee; Nadeau-Fredette, Annie-Claire; Burke, Michael; Faruque, Labib; Lloyd, Anita; Ahmad, Nasreen; Liu, Yuanchen; Tiv, Sophanny; Wiebe, Natasha; Strippoli, Giovanni F.M. (19 July 2016). "Comparison of Clinical Outcomes and Adverse Events Associated With Glucose-Lowering Drugs in Patients With Type 2 Diabetes". JAMA: the Journal of the American Medical Association. 316 (3): 313–24. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.9400. PMID 27434443.
DM is a strong independent predictor of short- and long-term recurrent ischemic events, including mortality, in acute coronary syndrome (ACS),6,7 including unstable angina and non-ST-elevation MI (NSTEMI),8 ST-elevation MI (STEMI) treated medically,9 and ACS undergoing percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI).10,11 Furthermore, the concomitant presence of cardiovascular risk factors and comorbidities that negatively affect the outcomes of ACS is higher in DM patients.12
Sources of complex carbohydrates include whole-wheat bread and brown rice, legumes like black beans, and quinoa. These foods contain fiber, vitamins, and minerals that are appropriate for any eating plan, regardless of whether you have prediabetes, have diabetes, or are perfectly healthy. In fact, experts know including complex carbs in your daily diet can help you maintain a healthy weight, among other health benefits.
Although this newfound knowledge on sugar, and specifically added sugar, may prompt you to ditch the soda, juice, and processed foods, be mindful of the other factors that can similarly influence your risk for type 2 diabetes. Obesity, a family history of diabetes, a personal history of heart disease, and depression, for instance, are other predictors for the disease, according to the NIH.
If you recognize any of the symptoms, contact your doctor immediately. A simple in-office test for sugar in the urine is used for diagnosis. If that test is positive, then a drop of blood from the fingertip will confirm diabetes. Every day, thousands of adults and children around the world are diagnosed, but many go undetected. Early diagnosis cannot prevent Type 1, but it can head off potentially devastating, even fatal, health concerns.
In ‘type 2 diabetes’ (previously called non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus), which accounts for 90% of all diabetes, the beta cells do not stop making insulin completely, but the insulin produced does not work properly so it struggles to store the sugar found in the blood. As a consequence, the pancreas has to produce more insulin to compensate for this reduction in insulin function. This is called insulin resistance and is commonly linked to obesity. This type of diabetes is seen more commonly over the age of 40 years but can occur at any age.
Awareness about the signs and symptoms and periodic screening especially in the presence of risk factors and warning signs of diabetes, would go a long way in preventing new cases of diabetes by providing an opportunity to intervene at the stage of prediabetes. It is evident that diabetes can be prevented among prediabetic individuals by improvements in physical activity and diet habits. Such strategies will also prevent development of diabetic complications to a great extent. Patient empowerment is vital in diabetes management. This can be done through patient education and sharing information on management and preventive aspects of diabetes.
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.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.