My dad has type II diabetes. What is diabetes and what different types of diabetes are there?
That is a simple, yet very complicated question. Diabetes and its treatment are quite complex. Large textbooks and thousands of medical articles have been written about this disease, yet its intricacies often overwhelm health professionals. The important thing is that people with the disease, like your father, and their family members, have a basic understanding of diabetes and its treatment. While there is a library’s worth of information out there, I will try to give you a basic overview of diabetes. Remember, each person’s disease is a little different, and how it is treated is up to him or her and their medical or alternative health care practitioner.
Diabetes has been with us for a long time, although historical accounts indicate that it was totally misunderstood. One document, written by Areteus the Cappadocian, between the second and third centuries, a.d., states that diabetes is the “melting down of the flesh and limbs into urine” and is most certainly deadly. Fortunately, Areteus was mistaken on both accounts. Today, with the understanding of what diabetes is, treatments have allowed diabetics to live healthy, productive lives.
Basically, diabetes is a disease involving the pancreas. The pancreas is an organ that sits behind the stomach and produces digestive juices, which are released into the small intestine. The pancreas also produces insulin, which is released into the blood stream. Insulin is a hormone that helps the body use the sugar and fat from the food you eat. Diabetes occurs if the pancreas produces little or no insulin or if the body does not respond to insulin as it should. Diabetes is considered a lifelong disease; however, the prospect of health is greatly dependent upon how well the person adheres to their treatment regimen.
Every cell in your body needs glucose to make energy. Glucose is a simple sugar that is broken down from the food that you eat. Carbohydrates are transported from the intestines to the liver (via the bloodstream) where they are broken down into glucose. The bloodstream then delivers glucose to every cell in your body. Extra glucose is stored in the liver or is converted into fat. When glucose enters your cells, it decreases the glucose level in your blood stream (called blood glucose or blood sugar).
Think of insulin as sort of a membership card. Without the card, the member is not allowed into the building, right? Without insulin, glucose cannot enter the cell. So now you have all this glucose building up in the blood stream with nowhere to go. This is hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar.
There are three types of diabetes: Type I, Type II, and gestational. Type I diabetes is caused by the pancreas producing little or no insulin. Persons with Type I must take insulin injections to control their blood glucose levels. Type I diabetes is pehaps better known as juvenile-onset diabetes. It has been called this because it occurs mostly in youth under the age of 20, but it can occur at any age.
Persons who have Type II diabetes do produce insulin, but they either do not produce enough or it does not work properly. Affecting 17 million people in the United States, Type II is the most common form of diabetes. It is interesting to note that an estimated 91 percent of those cases could have been prevented by lifestyle changes. Type II diabetes is the leading cause of health complications such as blindness, non-traumatic amputations, and chronic kidney failure. Risk factors for this type of diabetes include age (usually over 40) and obesity. There is a rise of Type II diabetes in children related to the increase of obesity in childhood.
Type II diabetes is treated differently in different people. Some may be able to manage their blood sugar by controlling their weight, making dietary changes, and by exercising. This treatment is sometimes not enough for some people, and they may need to take a prescription drug or insulin injections.
Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy when hormone changes affect the ability of insulin to work properly. In most cases, blood sugar levels return to normal after childbirth, but women who have had gestational diabetes have a higher risk of developing Type II diabetes later.
Symptoms of Diabetes
The symptoms of diabetes can include increased thirst, increased hunger, dry mouth, frequent urination, unexplained weight loss or weight gain, fatigue, blurry vision, itching, and increased frequency of infections.
Management of Diabetes
The main treatment goals include keeping blood sugar as close to normal levels as possible by balancing food intake with medication (if necessary) and exercise. The person with diabetes should plan their diets carefully, exercise regularly, and monitor blood sugars faithfully.
Diabetes is a lifelong test of watchfulness and self-control. Sometimes even when a diabetic is doing everything exactly right, something, such as an illness or traumatic experience throws the blood sugar out of control anyway. But, with conscientious care, and, most importantly, with our Lord’s help, diabetics can lead a long, healthy, and active life. Don’t we have an even better life to which to look forward?
“To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.” Revelation 2:7.
Sheryle Beaudry, a certified teletriage nurse, writes from Estacada, Oregon where she lives with her husband and twin daughters. She may be contacted by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org. If there is a health-related question you would like answered in LandMarks, please e-mail your question to: email@example.com, or mail it to: LandMarks, Steps to Life, P. O. Box 782828, Wichita, KS 67278.