Diabetes is a chronic disease that develops when the levels of sugar in the blood are at unhealthy levels. Normally, blood sugar (or glucose) provides energy for cells throughout the body, helping to maintain normal tissue and organ function. But when glucose levels are too high, serious complications like organ damage can occur. There are two primary types of diabetes:
* Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that occurs when the immune system destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.
* Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disease that occurs when the body is inefficient in its use of insulin.
Diabetes can also develop during pregnancy. This type of diabetes is called gestational diabetes.
Diabetes can be diagnosed with a blood test to assess glucose levels. Urine testing may also be performed to look for levels of glucose in the urine which may indicate kidney problems.
When glucose levels are not kept under control, diabetes can cause:
* kidney disease and kidney failure
* vision problems and blindness
* hearing loss
* nerve damage and pain
* an increased risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke
People with diabetes are also at a significantly increased risk for nerve and circulation problems in the feet and lower legs, resulting in slow-to-heal sores, infections and, sometimes, amputations of the toes, feet, or legs.
Diabetes requires ongoing management of blood sugar levels to reduce the risks of serious complications. Patients with diabetes will need to watch their diet to avoid consuming too much sugar, and they'll need to monitor their blood sugar levels throughout the day to ensure the levels remain under control. Insulin may also be prescribed to help stabilize glucose levels throughout the day. Insulin can be administered through injections or pills (depending on the severity of the disease and the patient's own risk factors), and it must be administered at specific times to maintain steady glucose levels throughout the day. Regular office visits and lab tests will help ensure the insulin dosing remains effective, as well as looking for signs of developing complications.
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