Diabetes mellitus, commonly referred to as diabetes, is a chronic condition that affects roughly 29 million (or 9.3%) Americans. Diabetes occurs in 3 major types:
- Type I diabetes
- Type II diabetes
- Gestational diabetes
Regardless of type, all forms of diabetes impact the conversion of food into energy. For instance, healthy bodies are able to break down sugars and carbohydrates from the foods we eat into an energy-providing sugar, called glucose. Thanks to glucose all bodily cells are fueled. However, individuals with diabetes lack, or don’t produce enough of, an essential hormone, known as insulin. Without an adequate amount of insulin, the body is unable to transport glucose through the bloodstream and turn it into vital energy. If diabetes is left untreated, blood glucose levels build up in the body, leading to inevitable damage of the nervous system, kidneys, eyes, and heart, and increasing the risk of kidney disease, nerve damage, vision damage, heart disease, and stroke.
Let’s explore the three different forms of diabetes:
- Type 1 diabetes
Type I diabetes is also referred to as juvenile-onset diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes. This first major form of the disease is rarer, affecting a mere 5 to 10 out of 100 people afflicted with diabetes. In patients with type I diabetes, the immune system destroy insulin-releasing cells, over time, eliminating insulin totally from the body. Once insulin is eliminated, bodily cells can no longer absorb energy-producing glucose. As a result, blood glucose remains in the blood, causing dangerously high blood sugar levels.
- Type II diabetes
Type 2 diabetes, also characterized as adult-onset diabetes or non-insulin-dependent diabetes, affects roughly 90% of diabetes cases. Despite the name, this form of the disease can occur at almost any age, with rates of type II diabetes on the rise in children. While popular assumption is that type II diabetes is caused by being overweight. This is a common myth. Unlike type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes patients do produce the hormone insulin within the pancreas. However, the body suffers insulin resistance, meaning patients are unable to utilize the hormone properly. If left untreated, the body gradually produces lower levels of insulin until the patient suffers complete insulin deficiency.
3. Gestational diabetes
Gestational diabetes, as the name suggests develops in women during gestation (or pregnancy). Akin to types 1 and 2, gestational diabetes impacts how the cells utilize glucose, leading to high blood sugar levels that can negatively impact the health of both expecting mom and unborn baby. Gestational diabetes only affects blood sugar levels during pregnancy. However, if left untreated gestational diabetes can increase the risk of:
- Early or preterm labor.
- C-section delivery due to high birth weight babies.
- Respiratory distress syndrome in early birth babies.
- Hypoglycemia, or babies born with low blood sugar and seizures.
- Increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life for both mom and baby.
Thankfully, gestational diabetes only occurs during pregnancy, which means if mom sticks to a healthy, balanced diet, daily exercise, and doctor-prescribed medication she can safely keep her blood sugar in check and deliver a healthy baby. A healthy pregnancy with gestational diabetes increases the chances of blood sugars returning to healthy shortly following delivery.