Diabetes is a chronic disorder characterized by an excessive amount of sugar glucose in the bloodstream. When we eat food, carbohydrates are converted into glucose which is deposited into the bloodstream. In a healthy body, when high glucose levels are detected (as in after a meal), a hormone called insulin is secreted by the pancreas into the circulatory system where it attaches to cells and directs them to extract the glucose and convert it to energy. People with diabetes either don’t produce insulin at all or do so in such a way that there isn’t enough. As a result, the cells never receive the signal to ‘eat’ the glucose, and instead of it being converted to energy, it is passed, unused, out of the body through the urine. A body whose cells are not consuming glucose simply cannot survive.
There are two general types of diabetes that can affect anyone. In order of commonality, the first is ‘type 2’ diabetes, most prevalent in adults, and accountable for between 90% and 95% of all cases. As of 2016, just under 10% of the population had ‘type 2’ diabetes, a quarter of which were suffering unknowingly. In this case, the body is unable to produce and/or use insulin properly. Some factors that contribute to your risk of developing this version of diabetes include physical inactivity, being overweight, family history, race, and other health issues such as high blood pressure. The second type of diabetes, ‘type 1’, affects youth more than adults and for that reason was originally referred to as ‘juvenile diabetes’. In this version, the body’s immune system attacks and completely destroys the ability to create insulin by killing off the beta cells in the pancreas responsible for its production. To stay alive, ‘type 1’ diabetics must take insulin every day.
Another concern for diabetics of having abnormally high levels of glucose in the bloodstream is that it can lead to other life-threatening conditions such as kidney disease, heart disease, and stroke. Other serious though non-life threatening issues include dental problems, nerve damage, and problems with sight. Although there is no cure for diabetes, it is manageable, and with the proper care, people with this condition can lead normal, productive lives.