An estimated 23.6 million people in the United States – 8 percent of the population – have diabetes. While diabetes is a common term, many have misconceptions of exactly what it is and how one can acquire, and treat, diabetes. To dispel some common myths, let’s first review the facts.
Diabetes is a chronic disease in which the levels of glucose – the blood sugars needed for energy – become elevated because the pancreas is not producing an adequate amount of insulin to regulate them. There are three main types of diabetes.
• Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease – the result of the body’s immune system attacking and destroying the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. The individual must take insulin daily to live. Type 1 diabetes develops most often in children and young adults, but can appear at any age. Scientists do not know exactly what causes type 1 diabetes but believe genetics and environmental factors, possibly viruses, are involved.
• Type 2 diabetes is the most common form. Ninety percent of people with diabetes have type 2. This form of diabetes is associated with older age, being overweight, family history of diabetes, previous history of gestational diabetes, physical inactivity and ethnicity. Type 2 diabetics manage glucose levels through diet, medication and insulin.
• Gestational diabetes develops only during pregnancy. Women who have had gestational diabetes have a 20 to 50 percent chance of developing type 2 diabetes within five to 10 years.
Common symptoms of diabetes include:
• Increased thirst and urination
• Constant hunger
• Weight loss
• Blurred vision
• Extreme fatigue.
The fasting plasma glucose test is the preferred test for diagnosing diabetes. Only your doctor can diagnose diabetes and tailor an individual treatment plan with a health care team, which may include an endocrinologist, dietician and other specialist.
Myths about diabetes