The general population has heard of diabetes, also known as diabetes mellitus, as it has become a commonplace medical condition. In 2015, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), diabetics make up 9.4 % of the population, which is equivalent to 30.3 million people. That is an outstanding number of people with a disease that continues to be the seventh leading cause of death, per the ADA, related to chronic medical conditions.
So, what exactly is diabetes? There are two main types of diabetes, type I and type II. However, there is also a subcategory of diabetes called gestational diabetes. Type I diabetes is a condition that is generally discovered at birth or during the first few years of life but it can be diagnosed into adulthood. In regards to type I diabetes, the pancreas, which is in charge of making insulin, does not produce insulin. The exact reason behind the failure of insulin production by the pancreas is unfortunately unknown but is continuing to be studied. Type II diabetes is characterized by a functioning pancreas but it is unable to create the amount of insulin needed to adequately transport the glucose from the bloodstream into the cells. Usually, type II is diagnosed later in life, and many times it can be prevented or cured with the proper diet and exercise regimen. However, this is not always the case and certain medications may be prescribed by your physician to assist your body in dealing with the faulty relationship between glucose and insulin.
Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that is only seen in the pregnant population and is characterized by a change in glucose levels due to the shift in hormones throughout pregnancy. It is commonly diagnosed through a blood test towards the end of the second trimester or beginning of the third trimester of pregnancy. If a woman is diagnosed with gestational diabetes, she is usually encouraged to meet with a nutritionist to discuss nutritional changes in addition to starting an exercise regimen. Similar to type II diabetes, gestational diabetes can many times be treated strictly with lifestyle modifications. If glucose levels are not being controlled through these modifications, a doctor will prescribe the appropriate medication. Gestational diabetes increases your chances of developing type II diabetes later in life, so it is important to continue to monitor your insulin levels annually.
Curious about how your body responds to glucose and insulin? Tomorrow your questions will be answered in the next installment of this series “The Role of Insulin and Glucose in Relation to Diabetes.”
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