Of the estimated 13 to 14
million people in the United States with diabetes, between 90 and 95 percent
have noninsulin-dependent or type II diabetes. Formerly
called adult-onset, this form of diabetes usually begins in adults over age 40,
and is most common after age 55. Nearly half of people with diabetes don't know
it because the symptoms often develop gradually and are hard to identify at
first. The person may feel tired or ill without knowing why. Diabetes can cause
problems that damage the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, and
Although there is no cure
for diabetes yet, daily treatment helps control blood sugar, and may reduce the
risk of complications. Under a doctor's supervision, treatment usually involves
a combination of weight loss, exercise, and medication.
In every issue of WebMD the Magazine, we ask our experts to answer readers' questions about a wide range of topics. In our January-February 2011 issue, we asked WebMD's Diabetes Expert, Michael Dansinger, MD, whether stevia, a new natural sweetener, is a good sugar substitute for people with diabetes.
Treatment usually involves weight loss,
exercise, and medication.
Daily treatment helps control diabetes
and may reduce the risk of complications.
What Is Diabetes?
The two types of
diabetes, insulin-dependent (type 1) and noninsulin-dependent (type 2),
are different disorders. While the causes, short-term effects, and treatments
for the two types differ, both can cause the same long-term health problems.
Both types also affect the body's ability to use digested food for energy.
Diabetes doesn't interfere with digestion, but it does prevent the body from
using an important product of digestion, glucose (commonly known as sugar), for
After a meal the
digestive system breaks some food down into sugar. The blood carries the sugar
throughout the body, causing blood sugar levels to rise. In response to this
rise the hormone insulin is released into the bloodstream to signal the body
tissues to metabolize or burn the sugar for fuel, causing blood sugar levels to
return to normal. A gland called the pancreas, found just behind the stomach,
makes insulin. Sugar the body doesn't use right away goes to the liver, muscle,
or fat for storage.
In someone with diabetes,
this process doesn't work correctly. In people with type 1 diabetes, the
pancreas doesn't produce insulin. This condition usually begins in childhood.
People with this kind of diabetes must have daily insulin injections to
In people with type
2 diabetes the pancreas usually produces some insulin, but the body
doesn't respond very well to the insulin signal and, therefore, doesn't
metabolize the sugar properly, a condition called insulin resistance. Insulin
resistance is an important factor in type 2 diabetes.
Points to Remember
Diabetes interferes with the body's use
of food for energy.
While type 1 and type 2 diabetes
are different disorders, they can cause the same complications.
What Are the Symptoms of Diabetes?
The symptoms of diabetes
may begin gradually and can be hard to identify at first. They may include
fatigue, a sick feeling, frequent urination, especially at night, and excessive
thirst. When there is extra sugar in blood, one way the body gets rid of it is
through frequent urination. This loss of fluids causes extreme thirst. Other
symptoms may include sudden weight loss, blurred vision, and slow healing of
skin, gum, and urinary tract infections. Women may notice genital
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Your level is currently
If the level is below 70 and you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.
People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.
Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.
However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.
Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.
Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.
One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.
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