Understanding the Complexity of Diabetes

A condition affecting approximately 30 million Americans—about seven million of which are undiagnosed—diabetes is a term used to describe a group of diseases that cause an excess amount of sugar (glucose) to be present in the blood. Currently, it is the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S. and costs about $176 billion in direct medical costs.

In honor of National Diabetes Month, we are committed to helping people understand the different aspects of diabetes, as well as some preventive tips for keeping prediabetes (higher than normal glucose levels) and type 2 diabetes at bay.

What is the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes?

Though both types are chronic conditions that impact the way the body regulates glucose and can lead to severe complications, there are some key differences between the two disorders:

  • Patients with type 1 are not able to produce insulin on their own
  • Patients with type 2 can produce their own insulin, but don’t respond well to it and make an inadequate amount in the disease’s later stages
  • There is no cure for type 1, but type 2—as well as prediabtes, the precursor to developing type 2—may be reversed with certain lifestyle changes
  • Though they share similar symptoms, symptoms of type 2 can develop slowly over time (even years) whereas type 1 symptoms develop over the course of several weeks

What are the symptoms of diabetes?

Both type 1 and type 2 have many similar symptoms—if not controlled—that can include:

  • Blurry vision
  • Feeling extremely tired
  • Feeling hungry
  • Frequent thirst and drinking
  • Frequent urination
  • Sores or cuts that don’t heal right

In addition, patients with type 1 may experience mood changes and irritability, and may unintentionally lose weight. Patients with type 2 may have tingling or numbness in their feet and hands.

What causes diabetes?

The causes of diabetes are one of the truly distinguishing factors between the two types. In patients with type 1, the body’s immune system attacks the cells that produce insulin in the pancreas, classifying it as an autoimmune disease. As a result, the body is no longer able to produce the insulin needed to manage the glucose levels in the body. The reason why this happens is currently unknown, but genetic and environmental factors (e.g., exposure to certain viruses) are suspected.

Patients with type 2 diabetes have what’s known as insulin resistance, which means their body uses insulin ineffectively. The body then tries to compensate by producing more insulin, but all of the efforts only result in high glucose levels. Lifestyle factors—such as lack of exercise and poor diet—are usually the cause, and genetic and environmental factors are suspected as well.

What can be done to prevent diabetes?

As stated, there is no way to prevent or cure type 1 diabetes, but type 2 (and prediabetes) is preventable if patients make the necessary lifestyle changes. By making small changes over a certain period, it increases the chances of success.

Once the commitment has been made, patients can start small after assessing their routine. For example, do patients have cookies every night for dessert? Could that perhaps be switched for a healthier alternative, such as a serving of fruit? If patients keep the goals small, realistic and specific (e.g., I will add two additional servings of vegetables per day, not I will add more vegetables to my diet) they can build on them over time, resulting in a dramatic change over the course of months or years.

It’s important to know that if patients don’t succeed the first time, they should not be discouraged. Rather, an assessment of what may have caused the failure should be made, such as setting the bar too high or a life event that occurred which made the goal challenging to reach.

Good starting-off points include:

  • Eating foods low in saturated fats, sodium (salt) and added sugars
  • Aiming for approximately two hours of moderate exercise a week
  • Keeping track of what’s being consumed in a day
  • Discussing diabetes with a physician

The Leader in Comprehensive Diabetic Care

At Garden State Medical Group, our specialists provide the best in diabetic care through our Diabetes Prevention and Education Program. Through this elite program, patients at risk or living with diabetes will get the best in diagnostics, counseling and education on managing type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

For more information about our program or to schedule an appointment with a dedicated specialist, contact us today.

To learn more about Diabetes you visit, http://www.diabetes.org/ or https://medlineplus.gov/healthtopics/diabetes_a.html

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