Diabetes: Part I

The word diabetes comes from two Greek words meaning “siphon” and “to go”. Diabetes is the name given to several diseases having excessive urine as one of the primary symptoms. There are two kinds of diabetes: diabetes insipidus and diabetes mellitus


Diabetes insipidus is a disease resulting from kidney malfunction or hormonal imbalance. Its name means too much urine that is lacking in quality. People with diabetes insipidus urinate too often, drink to overcome the feeling of thirst, urinate more, and on and on.  No matter how much they drink they become dehydrated. Their urine is clear and colorless. Without treatment, they will die from dehydration. Diabetes insipidus is NOT related to diabetes mellitus.


Diabetes mellitus is a disease resulting from lack of insulin or an inability to use insulin properly. Its name means too much urine that is sweet. The sweetness comes from the body’s effort to rid itself of glucose (a type of sugar) that it was unable to use. That’s why some people call diabetes, sugar diabetes. There are three types of diabetes mellitus: gestational diabetes, Type 1 diabetes and Type 2 diabetes.


Gestational diabetes occurs in three to eight out of a hundred pregnant women. Untreated gestational diabetes can harm the mother and the unborn baby. Unlike Types 1 and 2, gestational diabetes goes away once the baby is born. However, a woman who has had gestational diabetes is at higher risk for developing Type 2 diabetes as she gets older.


Type 1 diabetes results when the pancreas is unable to produced insulin. Insulin is necessary for your body to use the food you eat (broken down into glucose) for energy, wound healing, thinking and a lot of other ordinary functions we take for granted. There is no cure for Type 1 diabetes. People with Type 1 diabetes need to take insulin by injection for their whole lives. Type 1 diabetes can occur at any age.


The cause of Type 1 diabetes is unknown. Family history of the disease plays a part and some kind of autoimmune response may also be implicated.


Type 2 diabetes results when the pancreas is producing enough insulin but the body is unable to use it properly. The treatment for Types 2 diabetes generally begins with strict adherence to diet and exercise. Depending on the severity of the diabetes and the response to diet and exercise, treatment may also include oral medicine or insulin injections. There is no cure for Type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes used to be a disease of old or middle age. Now children in grammar school are being diagnosed with diabetes.


Risk factors for developing Type 2 diabetes include: family history of the disease, lack of exercise, poor diet and excess body weight.


Both types of diabetes mellitus are serious chronic conditions. If left untreated, both types can lead to life-threatening complications and death. Both types of diabetes mellitus increase the risk of an individual developing heart disease and stroke.


All individuals with diabetes mellitus need to be concerned about skin, infection and weight. Weight is an especially important issue, but is also especially difficult to manage, for those with Types 2 diabetes. Not only does extra weight make extra demands on the body’s need for insulin (as it does for everyone), but those with Types 2 diabetes have greater difficulty losing weight.


More on diabetes mellitus in future blogs.


Mary Lou Bernardo, PhD, MSN


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