Fatigue and muscle weakness occur because the glucose needed for energy simply is not metabolized properly. Weight loss in type 1 diabetes patients occurs partly because of the loss of body fluid and partly because in the absence of sufficient insulin the body begins to metabolize its own proteins and stored fat. The oxidation of fats is incomplete, however, and the fatty acids are converted into ketone bodies. When the kidney is no longer able to handle the excess ketones the patient develops ketosis. The overwhelming presence of the strong organic acids in the blood lowers the pH and leads to severe and potentially fatal ketoacidosis.
Insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus is believed to result from autoimmune, environmental, and/or genetic factors. Whatever the cause, the end result is destruction of insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells, a dramatic decrease in the secretion of insulin, and hyperglycemia. Non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus is presumably heterogeneous in origin. It is associated with older age, obesity, a family history of diabetes, and ethnicity (genetic components). The vast majority of those with non-insulin-dependent diabetes are overweight Kahn (2003). This form of the disorder has a much slower rate of progression than insulin-dependent diabetes. Over time the ability to respond to insulin decreases, resulting in increased levels of blood glucose. The pancreatic secretion of insulin increases in an attempt to compensate for the elevated levels of glucose. If the condition is untreated, the pancreatic production of insulin decreases and may even cease.
All types of diabetes mellitus have something in common. Normally, your body breaks down the sugars and carbohydrates you eat into a special sugar called glucose. Glucose fuels the cells in your body. But the cells need insulin, a hormone, in your bloodstream in order to take in the glucose and use it for energy. With diabetes mellitus, either your body doesn't make enough insulin, it can't use the insulin it does produce, or a combination of both.
Intensive blood sugar lowering (HbA1c<6%) as opposed to standard blood sugar lowering (HbA1c of 7–7.9%) does not appear to change mortality. The goal of treatment is typically an HbA1c of 7 to 8% or a fasting glucose of less than 7.2 mmol/L (130 mg/dl); however these goals may be changed after professional clinical consultation, taking into account particular risks of hypoglycemia and life expectancy. Despite guidelines recommending that intensive blood sugar control be based on balancing immediate harms with long-term benefits, many people – for example people with a life expectancy of less than nine years who will not benefit, are over-treated.
Weight loss surgery in those who are obese is an effective measure to treat diabetes. Many are able to maintain normal blood sugar levels with little or no medication following surgery and long-term mortality is decreased. There however is some short-term mortality risk of less than 1% from the surgery. The body mass index cutoffs for when surgery is appropriate are not yet clear. It is recommended that this option be considered in those who are unable to get both their weight and blood sugar under control.
Monogenic diabetes is caused by mutations, or changes, in a single gene. These changes are usually passed through families, but sometimes the gene mutation happens on its own. Most of these gene mutations cause diabetes by making the pancreas less able to make insulin. The most common types of monogenic diabetes are neonatal diabetes and maturity-onset diabetes of the young (MODY). Neonatal diabetes occurs in the first 6 months of life. Doctors usually diagnose MODY during adolescence or early adulthood, but sometimes the disease is not diagnosed until later in life.
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.
Dr. May currently works as a fulltime endocrinologist and has been in private practice since 2004. He has a variety of interests, predominantly obesity and diabetes, but also sees patients with osteoporosis, thyroid disorders, men's health disorders, pituitary and adrenal disorders, polycystic ovaries, and disorders of growth. He is a leading member of several obesity and diabetes societies and runs a trial centre for new drugs.
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.