In the United States. 20.8 million people (7% of the population) have diabetes. About one-third of these people are undiagnosed and are unaware that they have the disease. Another 41 million Americans have pre-diabetes. In adults aged 20 and over, 1.5 million new cases of diabetes were diagnosed in 2005.
Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin. Insulin is necessary for the body to process starches, sugars, and other foods into energy for daily use. The exact cause of diabetes is unknown; however, genetics and environmental factors including lack of exercise and obesity have been shown to affect the onset of diabetes.
There are several types of diabetes including Type 1, Type 2, Gestational, and Pre-diabetes. Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas fails to produce insulin whereas Type 2 diabetes occurs due to decreased insulin production, insulin resistance or the improper use of the insulin that is present. Gestational diabetes occurs in pregnant women and results from placental hormones obstructing the action of the mother’s insulin leading to insulin resistance. The mother’s body will not be able to produce enough insulin to meet its increased needs. Pre-diabetes is diagnosed when blood glucose levels are elevated above normal but not over the diabetes threshold.
Common symptoms of diabetes include excessive thirst, extreme hunger, frequent urination, irritability, increased fatigue, unusual weight loss, and blurred vision. Uncontrolled glucose levels can lead to complications such as eye, skin or foot conditions, kidney disease, nerve damage, heart disease or stroke, gastroparesis, and depression.
Maintaining a healthy weight may help prevent or delay the onset of diabetes. Dietary management and exercise are also vital components in the treatment of diabetes. Medication therapy for the treatment of diabetes consists of both oral and injectible medications. Oral medications include sulfonylureas, biguanides, alpha-glucosidase inhibitors, meglitinides, and thiazolidinediones while injectible medications include insulin, amylin analogs, and incretin mimetic agents. Self testing of blood glucose levels is another key component of diabetes management.