Diabetes is a disease that occurs when your blood glucose, also called blood sugar, is too high. Blood glucose is your main source of energy and comes from the food you eat. Insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas, helps glucose from food get into your cells to be used for energy. Sometimes your body doesn’t make enough—or any—insulin or doesn’t use insulin well. Glucose then stays in your blood and doesn’t reach your cells.
- Pre-diabetes: Prediabetes is a serious health condition where blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough yet to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes. Prediabetes puts you at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
- Type 1 Diabetes: If you have type 1 diabetes, your body does not make insulin. Your immune system attacks and destroys the cells in your pancreas that make insulin. Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults, although it can appear at any age. People with type 1 diabetes need to take insulin every day to stay alive.
- Type 2 Diabetes: If you have type 2 diabetes, your body does not make or use insulin well. You can develop type 2 diabetes at any age, even during childhood. However, this type of diabetes occurs most often in middle-aged and older people. Type 2 is the most common type of diabetes.
- Gestational Diabetes: Gestational diabetes develops in some women when they are pregnant. Most of the time, this type of diabetes goes away after the baby is born. However, if you’ve had gestational diabetes, you have a greater chance of developing type 2 diabetes later in life. Sometimes diabetes diagnosed during pregnancy is actually type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes can affect other parts of the body including eyes, kidneys, heart, and hands and feet.
Risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, previously having gestational diabetes, high carbohydrate diet, high alcohol intake, sedentary lifestyle, obesity, ethnicity, and aging.
Symptoms vary by person, but may include being thirsty or hungry, dry mouth, frequent urination, unexplained weight gain or loss, fatigue, blurred vision, slow healing sores, numbness or tingling in hands and feet, and headaches.
There are several ways to diagnose diabetes. Each way usually needs to be repeated on a second day to diagnose diabetes.
The A1C test measures your average blood glucose for the past 2 to 3 months. The advantages of being diagnosed this way are that you don't have to fast or drink anything. Result:
- Normal less than 5.7%
- Prediabetes 5.7% to 6.4%
- Diabetes 6.5% or higher
Fasting Plasma Glucose (FPG) test checks your fasting blood glucose levels. Fasting means after not having anything to eat or drink (except water) for at least 8 hours before the test. This test is usually done first thing in the morning, before breakfast. Result:
- Normal less than 100 mg/dl
- Prediabetes 100 mg/dl to 125 mg/dl
- Diabetes 126 mg/dl or higher
The OGTT is a two-hour test that checks your blood glucose levels before and 2 hours after you drink a special sweet drink. It tells the doctor how your body processes glucose. Result:
- Normal less than 140 mg/dl
- Prediabetes 140 mg/dl to 199 mg/dl
- Diabetes 200 mg/dl or higher
One of the first things you should do after diagnosis is to participate in a diabetes education class.
Your doctor may prescribe medications. Medications can be oral medications or insulin, or even a combination of the two. You might also be prescribed a statin to control your cholesterol.
In addition, your doctor recommend you see specialists to control the complications that may develop:
- diabetes doctor
- diabetes educator
- eye doctor
- foot doctor
Managing Your Condition
- Diabetic diets generally include low carbohydrates, high fiber, low fat, and salt. How much and when you eat are also just as important as what you eat.
- Being active can lower your blood sugar.
Check your blood sugar as directed by your doctor. Be sure to talk to your doctor about the right diet and exercise plan for you. Your doctor will likely refer you to other specialists periodically to prevent or manage complications.