Mission: Education What is diabetes? What is type 1 and type 2 diabetes?

Most of us don't really understand what is to be diabetic, much less what the difference is between type 1 and type 2. (Let's not even wonder about Insulin Resistance - that's a whole other article!)  Here is a bare-bones breakdown for us average Joes.

Generally speaking (we can't all be John Hopkins); being diabetic means that your body does not properly turn the food you eat into glucose - the body's main fuel source.  Converting nutrients into glucose is the primary job of insulin; a hormone created by the pancreas. Type 1 (formerly known as Juvenile-onset Diabetes) is the form of diabetes caused by the inability of the pancreas produces little to no insulin. Type 1 diabetes makes up less than 10% of all diabetics and they are dependent on insulin shots or pumps to keep them alive.

Type 2 diabetes - the vast majority of cases, is where the pancreas functions properly but the body is unable to use the insulin. The body, due in large part to lifestyle choices has become insulin resistant. Different cause, same result. A build-up of glucose in the blood while the cells starve for energy. Through the years, high blood glucose, also known as hyperglycemia, reeks havoc on nerves and blood vessels potentially leading to such complications as heart disease, stroke, blindness, neuropathy, kidney disease, frequent infections, and slow-healing wounds.

By and large, the most common is type 2 and it usually develops in adults over the age of 40, predominantly in those 55 or older. Symptoms of type 2 develop gradually and are rarely as severe as symptoms of type 1. They include fatigue, frequent urination, excessive thirst, impaired or blurry vision, and otherwise unexplainable weight loss. However, many without any of these symptoms have been blindsided when their doctor informs them they are diabetic or pre-diabetic.

Gestational diabetes develops during pregnancy and usually resolves when the pregnancy is over. That said, women who have had gestational diabetes are at greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in their life. A great site for women to learn more about gestational diabetes or more about diabetes as it pertains to women is DiabetesSisters.org.

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