Diabetes mellitus (DM), also known as simply diabetes, is a group of metabolic diseases in which there are high blood sugar levels over a prolonged period. This high blood sugar produces the symptoms of frequent urination, increased thirst, and increased hunger. Untreated, diabetes can cause many complications. Acute complications include diabetic ketoacidosis and nonketotic hyperosmolar coma. Serious long-term complications include heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, foot ulcers and damage to the eyes.
Diabetes is due to either the pancreas not producing enough insulin, or the cells of the body not responding properly to the insulin produced. There are three main types of diabetes mellitus:
Type 1 DM results from the body's failure to produce enough insulin. This form was previously referred to as "insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus" (IDDM) or "juvenile diabetes". The cause is unknown.
Type 2 DM begins with insulin resistance, a condition in which cells fail to respond to insulin properly. As the disease progresses a lack of insulin may also develop. This form was previously referred to as "non insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus" (NIDDM) or "adult-onset diabetes". The primary cause is excessive body weight and not enough exercise.
Gestational diabetes, is the third main form and occurs when pregnant women without a previous history of diabetes develop a high blood glucose level.
Prevention and treatment involves a healthy diet, physical exercise, not using tobacco and being a normal body weight. Blood pressure control and proper foot care are also important for people with the disease. Type 1 diabetes must be managed with insulin injections. Type 2 diabetes may be treated with medications with or without insulin. Insulin and some oral medications can cause low blood sugar. Weight loss surgery in those with obesity is an effective measure in those with type 2 DM. Gestational diabetes usually resolves after the birth of the baby.
Globally, as of 2013, an estimated 382 million people have diabetes worldwide, with type 2 diabetes making up about 90% of the cases. This is equal to 8.3% of the adults population, with equal rates in both women and men. Worldwide in 2012 and 2013 diabetes resulted in 1.5 to 5.1 million deaths per year, making it the 8th leading cause of death. Diabetes overall at least doubles the risk of death. The number of people with diabetes is expected to rise to 592 million by 2035. The economic costs of diabetes globally was estimated in 2013 at $548 billion and in the United States in 2012 $245 billion.
Signs and Symptoms of Diabetes
The classic symptoms of untreated diabetes are weight loss, polyuria (frequent urination), polydipsia (increased thirst), and polyphagia (increased hunger). Symptoms may develop rapidly (weeks or months) in type 1 diabetes, while they usually develop much more slowly and may be subtle or absent in type 2 diabetes.
Several other signs and symptoms can mark the onset of diabetes, although they are not specific to the disease. In addition to the known ones above, they include blurry vision, headache, fatigue, slow healing of cuts, and itchy skin. Prolonged high blood glucose can cause glucose absorption in the lens of the eye, which leads to changes in its shape, resulting in vision changes. A number of skin rashes that can occur in diabetes are collectively known as diabetic dermadromes.
Prevention of Diabetes
There is no known preventive measure for type 1 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes can often be prevented by a person being a normal body weight, physical exercise, and following a healthy diet. Dietary changes known to be effective in helping to prevent diabetes include a diet rich in whole grains and fiber, and choosing good fats, such as polyunsaturated fats found in nuts, vegetable oils, and fish. Limiting sugary beverages and eating less red meat and other sources of saturated fat can also help in the prevention of diabetes. Active smoking is also associated with an increased risk of diabetes, so smoking cessation can be an important preventive measure as well.
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