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The realities and challenges of diabetes today


Nearly 1 in 10 Americans are diagnosed with diabetes, and about 1 in 5 people don’t even know they have diabetes, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.

There are more people diagnosed with diabetes than ever before, and people are getting diagnosed at younger ages.

Luckily, modern medicine has allowed people diagnosed with diabetes to live longer. The discovery of injectable insulin over 100 years ago has been vital in treating people with diabetes.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic disease that is diagnosed when a person’s body does not produce insulin, or their body can’t use the insulin properly. Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas that regulates blood sugar or blood glucose.

“Glucose is an important source of energy for the cells that make up the muscles and tissues. It’s also the brain’s main source of fuel,” per the Mayo Clinic. “The main cause of diabetes varies by type. But no matter what type of diabetes you have, it can lead to excess sugar in the blood. Too much sugar in the blood can lead to serious health problems.”

Type 1 vs. Type 2 diabetes

In Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas fails to produce insulin due to the body’s immune system targeting and destroying the insulin-producing islet cells within the pancreas.

In Type 2 diabetes, the pancreas generates less insulin than before, and the body develops insulin resistance, meaning it still has insulin but loses its ability to utilize it effectively.

According to UVA Health, “Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder, and it is unknown why the immune system attacks the pancreatic islet cells that produce insulin. In contrast, Type 2 diabetes is usually diagnosed in people who have too much body fat and can be prevented with a healthy lifestyle.”

The World Health Organization shared that symptoms of both types of diabetes can include the following:

  • Hunger.
  • Extreme thirst.
  • Fatigue.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Unexplained weight loss.

“Over time, diabetes can damage blood vessels in the heart, eyes, kidneys and nerves. People with diabetes have a higher risk of health problems including heart attack, stroke and kidney failure,” the Word Health Organization said.

It emphasized that “Diabetes can cause permanent vision loss by damaging blood vessels in the eyes. Many people with diabetes develop problems with their feet from nerve damage and poor blood flow. This can cause foot ulcers and may lead to amputation.”

What is prediabetes?

According to the CDC, more than 1 in 3 Americans are prediabetic, and more than 80% of people don’t know they have it.

People typically experience prediabetes before progressing to Type 2 diabetes. Prediabetes is a medical condition caused by blood glucose levels that are higher than normal but not high enough to be classified as diabetes.

If you are prediabetic, the American Diabetes Association shared the following prevention efforts to keep from being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes:

  • Try to shed weight. Even 10 pounds can make a significant difference.
  • Try to exercise at least 30 minutes a day.
  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Talk with your health care provider about additional ways to reverse prediabetes.