Type 2 diabetes is typically a chronic disease associated with a ten-year-shorter life expectancy. This is partly due to a number of complications with which it is associated, including: two to four times the risk of cardiovascular disease, including ischemic heart disease and stroke; a 20-fold increase in lower limb amputations, and increased rates of hospitalizations. In the developed world, and increasingly elsewhere, type 2 diabetes is the largest cause of nontraumatic blindness and kidney failure. It has also been associated with an increased risk of cognitive dysfunction and dementia through disease processes such as Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia. Other complications include acanthosis nigricans, sexual dysfunction, and frequent infections.
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.
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Diabetes mellitus (DM) comprises a group of disorders characterized by hyperglycemia. It is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and results in $132 billion in total direct and indirect costs. Although the incidence of Type 1 diabetes has doubled over the past 30 years, the increase in Type 2 diabetes has been even more dramatic. An estimated 20–40% of cases in large pediatric diabetes centers are now Type 2, and the rates are expected to rise along with the epidemic of childhood and adolescent obesity (Chapter 11).
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.
The problem with sugar, regardless of type, is the sheer amount of it that’s found in the Standard American Diet (SAD), which is the typical eating plan many people in the United States — as well as those in an increasing number of modernized countries — have developed a taste for. When consumed in excess, foods in this category can lead to heart disease, stroke, and other serious health issues. “Often, foods with added sugar also contain fat,” explains Grieger, noting that these components go hand in hand when it comes to the risk for insulin resistance, the hallmark of type 2 diabetes.
Doctors can monitor treatment using a blood test called hemoglobin A1C. When the blood glucose levels are high, changes occur in hemoglobin, the protein that carries oxygen in the blood. These changes are in direct proportion to the blood glucose levels over an extended period. The higher the hemoglobin A1C level, the higher the person's glucose levels have been. Thus, unlike the blood glucose measurement, which reveals the level at a particular moment, the hemoglobin A1Cmeasurement demonstrates whether the blood glucose levels have been controlled over the previous few months.
The Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT) was a clinical study conducted by the United States National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1993. Test subjects all had diabetes mellitus type 1 and were randomized to a tight glycemic arm and a control arm with the standard of care at the time; people were followed for an average of seven years, and people in the treatment had dramatically lower rates of diabetic complications. It was as a landmark study at the time, and significantly changed the management of all forms of diabetes.
Janis McWilliams, RN, MSN, CDE, BC-ADM, responds: Yes, in type 1 diabetes in particular, the onset of symptoms like frequent urination and extreme thirst can be very sudden. In type 2 diabetes, the symptoms tend to come about more gradually, and sometimes there are no signs at all. People who have symptoms should contact their health care provider immediately for an accurate diagnosis. Keep in mind that these symptoms could signal other problems, too.
Over time, a prolonged exposure to high blood sugar can damage the nerves throughout the body — a condition called diabetic neuropathy. Some people may not have any symptoms of the damage, while others may notice numbness, tingling, or pain in the extremities. “At the beginning, [diabetic neuropathy] usually starts in the feet and then it progresses upward,” says Dr. Ovalle. Although most common in people who have had type 2 diabetes for 25 years or more, it can occur in people who have prediabetes as well. In some studies, almost 50 percent of unexplained peripheral neuropathy [in the extremities], whether painful or otherwise, turns out to be caused by prediabetes or diabetes, says Dr. Einhorn.