It is estimated that in the U.S. there are 34.2 million people currently experiencing diabetes. This figure includes approximately 7.3 million people over the age of 18, who don't even know they have the disease.
There are two main forms of diabetes. Type I occurs when the body completely stops producing insulin. This type is sometimes referred to as juvenile diabetes. Adult-onset diabetes, or Type II, is the second form. Let’s take a look at the most common type (Type II), causes and risk factors, and some of the side effects.
What is Type II Diabetes?
A person is said to have Type II diabetes when the level of sugar in their bloodstream becomes chronically high. This can occur when a person's cells fail to respond well (or at all) to insulin's message of directing them (the cells) to remove sugar from the bloodstream. Instead of sugar entering the cells where it can be used as energy, the sugar continues to circulate in the bloodstream, with some of the excesses also being eliminated through the kidneys by way of urination. With Type II diabetes, the body is also unable to produce more insulin that would ramp up messaging to cells directing them to allow sugar in from the bloodstream.
There are multiple risk factors that may lead one to develop Type II diabetes. Some of these risk factors include:
- Family history
- Race or ethnicity
Obesity is the leading risk factor for developing Type II diabetes. As a person's weight increases, their cells become more resistant to the messages sent by insulin. Normally, activity increases the demand for the uptake of sugar from the bloodstream for use as energy. When a person remains inactive, their cells don't demand the energy that sugar from the bloodstream could provide.
Although the precise reasons "why" remain unclear, people of certain ethnicities such as Hispanic, American Indian, Asian American, and African Americans are more susceptible to contracting Type II diabetes. A family history of diabetes can also be a contributing factor, and older people tend to be more at risk for developing diabetes as well.
Less common causes of Type II diabetes include:
If a person receives a diagnosis of Type II diabetes, initially they may be able to manage their blood sugar levels through dietary modifications and oral medications such as Metformin. Metformin is a prescription drug that works in several ways to normalize blood sugar levels. It makes cells more sensitive to insulin's message to take up sugar from the blood, it reduces the amount of sugar the body absorbs from food and drink, and it decreases sugar production in the liver.
Some people reach a point where taking oral medication isn't enough to keep their blood sugar levels within normal ranges. Type I, and some people with Type II diabetes, fall into this category. Either their body produces no insulin at all, or it doesn't produce enough to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. People that fall into this category must take daily injections of insulin in order to keep their blood sugar levels within normal ranges.
Effects of Diabetes
Diabetes is a serious health issue and left untreated, it can lead to other health issues, up to and including death. Even those who are receiving treatment for their diabetes may experience some of the following adverse health conditions:
- Heart disease
- Nerve damage (neuropathy)
- Hearing impairment
- Amputation of extremities (e.g., toes, feet)
- Kidney disease
- Alzheimer's disease
- Skin conditions (fungal or bacterial infections)
Maintaining a healthy weight and engaging in regular exercise are two important pillars in the battle against Type II diabetes. If you or someone you know is at risk for developing this potentially life-threatening disease, contact us to learn more about prevention methods.