Diabetes is a generic term for diseases that affect how the body makes use of blood sugar or glucose. Sugar in the blood serves as energy for body cells. It is one of the most important nutrients a person gets from food.
When a patient is diagnosed with some form of diabetes, this person lacks the ability to process that nutrient, for some reason. The version of the disease defines the reason that the blood sugar is underutilized by the cells.
The two most common are referred to as Type 1 and Type 2. With Type 1 diabetes, sometimes called juvenile onset, the patient’s body fails to produce enough insulin to keep the body cells functioning properly. Insulin works like a key that unlocks the cell to allow the glucose to pass through the membrane or wall. This effectively leaves the glucose locked out and floating around in the bloodstream.
Type 2 diabetes, or late onset, has more to do with lifestyle choices such as poor diet and lack of exercise. Over time, the body cells become resistant to the insulin and the pancreas can’t make enough of it to keep the cell walls receptive to the sugar. The cells become deprived of their necessary energy and are often damaged or die off.
An increase in blood sugar is the primary sign of diabetes. When a diabetes specialist screens for the condition, that is the first thing checked. If the blood sugar is higher than normal, the doctor may do a more comprehensive exam called the glycated hemoglobin (A1C) test. The A1C tests the percentage of blood sugar that is attached to blood hemoglobin. An A1C level of 6.5 percent or more indicates some form of diabetes.
The treatment will depend on the specific type of diabetes, but it will always involve monitoring the blood sugar levels to keep them within the target range. In some cases, the patient may require insulin therapy to ensure the body cells take in the right amount of glucose.
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