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What Exactly Is Diabetes?

Aug 18, 2007
Diabetes mellitus is a metabolic disorder that tends to be recognized through high levels of blood sugar and other physical manifestations, and it differs significantly from a typical illness or chronic disease. There are several types of diabetes known to the medical community, and all are caused by a variety of different things - in fact, current research in the medical community tends to discover new potential causes of diabetes each year.

Ultimately, diabetes is brought on by an individual's pancreas becoming unable to produce the necessary amount of insulin to prevent the development of hyperglycemia. Once a person has developed type 1 or type 2 diabetes, it is incurable - but it is treatable. If the diabetes is not controlled through medical treatment, it can lead to life-threatening complications, such as a higher risk of heart failure, blindness, severe nerve damage, and foot wounds that could lead to amputation.

Type 1 diabetes differs from type 2 in that it is more commonly found in men, and it may have a small genetic link. This type of diabetes tends to develop when the cells inside of one's pancreas are attacked by the immune system, disallowing the pancreas to produce the required amount of insulin and thereby causing an insulin deficiency. It is also possible to develop type 1 diabetes through after-complications of viral infections contracted during one's childhood or youth. These may take a toll on the immune system, causing it to malfunction later in one's life.

Type 2 diabetes has a much larger genetic link, generally resulting from a predisposition toward the disease and lifestyle choices that cause the disease to develop. Parents may pass this disease on to their children at birth, though it is possible to reduce the risk of ever developing type 2 diabetes: this involves wise choices when it comes to lifestyle habits and diet, such as reducing or eliminating the consumption of high-fat foods and excessive alcohol, keeping active, and being careful to avoid becoming overweight.

It is possible for type 2 diabetes to become onset with age, regardless of previous lifestyle choices, simply due to genetics. Risk for genetically onset diabetes tends to increase at around 45 years old, and after 65 the risk becomes even greater.

In addition, there are certain ethnic groups whose genetic predisposition toward developing type 2 diabetes is much higher. These groups include African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, and Japanese Americans. Individuals belonging to these ethnic groups would do well to take extra care when it comes to diet and lifestyle, in order to ensure a long and happy life.
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