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What Is Diabetes And How Do We Treat It?

Diabetes is an inability to maintain healthy levels of glucose in the blood, giving rise to numerous symptoms that can affect the entire body and can lead to potentially life-threatening complications.

 

This is typically because the body can no longer absorb sugar into its tissues, either because the insulin hormone required to trigger its uptake is missing or ineffective.

Type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is a loss of insulin caused by the destruction of cells in the pancreas at the hands of the body's own immune system. The life-long condition is typically diagnosed relatively early in life, and is treated by monitoring sugar levels, adjusting diet, and maintaining insulin levels through regular injections.

While its cause isn't always clear, the condition runs in families, indicating a genetic role and possible early environmental factors. This makes it less likely we'll see a way to prevent the condition in the future.

But treatments are advancing with steady progress in technology, with a long term goal to match the insulin-balancing mechanisms of the lost insulin cells with either electronics, transplants, or a hybrid of solutions.

Type 2 diabetes

Roughly 85 to 90 percent of chronic diabetics have the second category of the illness. It's caused by the pancreas gradually losing its ability to produce sufficient amounts of insulin, or the body's tissues developing resistance to the hormone's effect.

Unlike type 1 diabetes, it progresses over a lifetime thanks to genetics, diet, or effects of other conditions such as obesity or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, meaning it often isn't diagnosed until after middle age. It's often preceded by a condition called prediabetes, where blood sugar levels are elevated but symptoms are yet to appear.

Similar to type 1 diabetes, those with type 2 manage the condition by monitoring their diet and blood sugar, and providing precise doses of insulin where appropriate.

 

Gestational diabetes

As the name suggests, gestational diabetes is a condition that affects women during pregnancy. Up to around 15 percent of pregnancies will be affected between the 24th to the 28th week of gestation. It is caused when the placenta's insulin-blocking hormones create a greater demand for insulin in the body.

This is a normal part of pregnancy, but this increased strain on the insulin production system can exacerbate any preexisting problems, such as underlying low levels of insulin resistance.

Unlike other forms of diabetes, this acute condition is relatively temporary, with most mothers recovering normal insulin responses after the birth. Though it can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes later.