Aspire to be Healthy: What is diabetes?
By Lori VandeVoort, FNP-C
Aspirus Three Lakes Clinic
Perhaps the first thing to know about diabetes is that it isn’t just one disease.
It’s actually a group of diseases characterized by high levels of glucose (sugar) in the blood. It may be that the pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin—a hormone involved in turning food into glucose, which the body uses for energy. Another possibility is that the body isn’t using insulin effectively.
Whatever the case, the result is too much sugar in the blood; excessive amounts of blood sugar can harm organs and lead to serious problems.
Diabetes typically strikes in one of three ways.
Type 1 diabetes
Previously called juvenile-onset diabetes, Type 1 usually begins in childhood or young adulthood.
It occurs when the pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin—or makes no insulin at all. That’s why people with Type 1 need to regularly take insulin, often with daily injections.
Only about 5 percent of adults diagnosed with diabetes have type 1.
Type 2 diabetes
This is the most common type of diabetes. About 90 – 95 percent of adults diagnosed with diabetes have Type 2.
Once called adult-onset diabetes, it’s increasingly being found in children.
Type 2 occurs when the pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin or doesn’t use it properly. Genetics, diet and inactivity are all probable causes. Medicines and sometimes insulin are needed to treat it.
Some women who’ve never had diabetes before develop it during pregnancy.
Gestational diabetes usually resolves once the baby is born. However, it increases the mother’s risk for future Type 2 diabetes—as well as the baby’s risk, if the mother isn’t treated.
Sources: American Diabetes Association; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Lori VandeVoort, FNP-C, is a nurse practitioner specializing in family medicine at Aspirus Three Lakes Clinic. To request an appointment, please call 715-546-2543.