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Oct 8

Diabetes: What is it?

Diabetes, is known as diabetes mellitus; a lifelong chronic disease and metabolism disorder. Your metabolism regulates how the body uses and digests food for growth and energy. The majority of the food we eat is broken down into glucose. Glucose is a type of sugar in the blood – it is the main source of food for the cells that make up our body. When food is digested it eventually enters the bloodstream as glucose. Cells use the glucose for growth and energy. However, without the help of insulin, the glucose isn’t allowed entry into our cells. Insulin is a hormone and is produced by Beta cells in the pancreas. It acts as a gatekeeper, of sorts, or key to your cells.

After you eat, your pancreas automatically responds by releasing an adequate amount of insulin to transport the blood glucose into the cells, which results in lower blood sugar levels. If you have diabetes, the glucose in the bloodstream does not enter the cells (at all or not enough), so glucose builds up until levels are too high, resulting in a condition called hyperglycemia. This happens for one of two main reasons:
• The body is producing no insulin – as is the case in Diabetes Type 1
• The cells do not respond correctly to the insulin – as occurs in Diabetes Type 2
As a result, large amounts of glucose accumulate in the blood. This blood glucose overload will eventually pass from the body in the urine. Even though the blood has plenty of insulin, a person with diabetes has cells that are not getting their much needed energy and growth requirements.

Signs and symptoms of diabetes can vary from person to person, but the most common symptoms are:
Frequent urination
Excessive thirst
Feeling hungry – even when you are eating
Blurred vision
Wounds that are slow to heal
Weight loss – even though you may be eating more
Pain and tingling or numbeness in the hands and feet

Early detection and treatment of diabetes can decrease the risk of developing the complications of diabetes. If you are experiencing any number of these symptoms, see your doctor. Depending upon whether it is Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, you may be able to make lifestyle changes, like diet and exercise, that will improve your symptoms significantly.

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