Diabetes is a chronic condition in which the body either cannot produce insulin or cannot properly use the insulin it produces. Insulin, a hormone made the pancreas, regulates the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood. The body needs insulin to use glucose for energy. Uncontrolled diabetes leads to high blood sugar levels, which can damage organs, blood vessels and nerves.
Occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks and kills the beta cells of the pancreas. As a result, the body makes little or no insulin. This leads to a build-up of glucose in the blood instead of being used as energy. About five to 10 per cent of people with diabetes have Type 1 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes generally develops in childhood or adolescence, but can develop in adulthood.
Occurs when the body cannot properly use its own insulin or does not make enough insulin. As a result, glucose builds up in the blood instead of being used as energy. About 90 per cent of people with diabetes have Type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes develops more often in adults, but can affect children too.
Is a temporary condition that occurs during pregnancy. It affects approximately two to four per cent of all pregnancies (in the non-Aboriginal population) and involves a higher risk of developing diabetes for both mother and child.
Refers to blood glucose levels that are higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes.
Diabetes-related complications can be very serious and even life-threatening. They include organ failure, foot problems such as amputation, eye disease (retinopathy) that can lead to blindness, heart attack, stroke, anxiety, nerve damage, and erectile dysfunction for men. Keeping blood glucose levels in a healthy range can significantly reduce the risk of these complications.
Signs and symptoms of uncontrolled diabetes can include, unusual thirst, frequent urination, weight change (gain or loss), extreme fatigue or lack of energy, blurred vision, frequent or recurring infections, cuts and bruises that are slow to heal, and tingling or numbness in the hands or feet.
It is important to recognize, however, that many people who have Type 2 diabetes have few or no symptoms.
The presence of the following increases your risk for developing Type 2 diabetes.
- Age 40 or older
- A member of a high-risk ethnic group (Aboriginal, Hispanic, Asian, South Asian or African descent)
- Overweight (especially if you carry most of your weight around your middle)
- A parent, brother or sister with diabetes
- Given birth to a baby that weighed more than 4 kg (9 lb) at birth
- Had gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy)
- Impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) or impaired fasting glucose (IFG)
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol or other fats in the blood
You can live a long and healthy life by keeping your blood glucose in a healthy range. Healthy eating and active living are important components of managing both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. Your doctor may also prescribe diabetes medications depending on your diabetes. Discuss diabetes with your doctor, so you and your family can learn more and how to take charge of your diabetes.
For more information about Diabetes and you, visit the Canadian Diabetes Association website.