Over 30 million people in the United States have diabetes, with almost a third of cases going undiagnosed. According to the American Diabetes Association, another 1.5 million people are diagnosed every year. Of these numbers, approximately 1.25 million people have type 1 diabetes. The general population often confuse type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
Sometimes called juvenile diabetes due to the frequency of childhood diagnoses, type 1 diabetes can affect anyone, regardless of age, race, or weight. This form of the disease prevents the body from producing insulin, which is responsible for regulating blood glucose or blood sugar.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, and its exact origin is unknown. Autoimmune diseases are those that cause the immune system to attack the body mistakenly. In the case of type 1 diabetes, the body attacks and destroys islet cells in the pancreas. Once enough of those cells are gone, the body ceases the production of insulin. Because insulin lowers the amount of sugar in the bloodstream, lack of it can cause these sugars to build up, leading to life-threatening complications.
Symptoms of type 1 diabetes can appear quickly and often without warning. Some of the more common symptoms include dehydration, frequent urination, weight loss, and tingling or numbness in the legs. Less common but possible symptoms such as blurry vision, heart palpitations, and fatigue affect some people. Additionally, a drop in blood sugar can cause sudden mood changes and irritability.
Because doctors do not know how to prevent type 1 diabetes, scientists research certain risk factors, which include family history and genetics, geography, age, and, in some cases, ethnicity. Those with a parent or sibling who has the disease is at a slightly higher risk of developing it than those who don't. Although type 1 diabetes can affect anyone of any age, it is more commonly diagnosed in children under the age of 15.
A glycated hemoglobin test is the best and most common blood test for diagnosing type 1 diabetes. This test measures how much blood sugar is attached to the oxygen-carrying red blood cells or hemoglobin. The higher one's blood sugar, the more sugar-coated hemoglobin. After the diagnosis, a person with diabetes will have to visit their doctor to have their blood sugar monitored regularly. Treatments for type 1 diabetes include insulin injections, diet and nutrition, and exercise.
Type 2 diabetes used to be known as adult-onset diabetes, but doctors are diagnosing more and more children. This is the type of diabetes most commonly associated with obesity, unhealthy eating habits, and the modern sedentary lifestyle.
Type 2 diabetes is another chronic condition -- the body either begins to resist insulin or stops producing enough of it to maintain normal blood glucose levels. Several factors can cause type 2 diabetes, but the most common and important of those are lifestyle and genetics. Approximately 90% of people with diabetes have type 2, and six in ten show few to no symptoms, which can delay diagnosis.
If the body isn't producing the correct amount of insulin to absorb glucose, a person might experience fatigue. Other common symptoms of type 2 diabetes include an increased need to urinate, thirst, and increased susceptibility to yeast infections. Unfortunately, most people consider these symptoms parts of everyday life and do not see a doctor. If type 2 diabetes goes undiagnosed for too long, high blood sugar levels can damage the heart, kidneys, eyes, and feet.
The factors that increase the risk of getting type 1 or type 2 diabetes differ widely. A person's lifestyle greatly affects their likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes. Related factors include being overweight, inactivity, age, and some preexisting conditions. For example, polycystic ovarian syndrome can lead to type 2 diabetes.
Unlike type 1, healthy lifestyle changes can help people prevent type 2 diabetes. Even those with a family history of diabetes can reduce their risk by maintaining a healthy lifestyle that includes a good diet and exercise. Lifestyle changes can also slow the progression of prediabetes. Healthy changes include choosing lower-fat foods, undertaking 30 to 60 minutes of exercise a day, losing weight, and avoiding being sedentary for long periods. Doctors will often prescribe similar treatments to people diagnosed with the condition: weight loss, healthy eating, and exercise, in addition to regular blood sugar monitoring.
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