What Is Diabetes?
Learn about the widely misunderstood disease of the pancreas known as diabetes.
Diabetes mellitus is a common disorder that occurs when your pancreas either totally stops producing insulin or does not produce enough of the hormone for your body's needs. This results in a low absorption of glucose, both by the cells, which need it for energy, and by the liver, which stores it.
Another result is a high level of glucose in your blood. Diabetes mellitus should not be confused with diabetes insipidus, which is a much less common disorder. There are two main forms of diabetes mellitus. They are insulin-independent and insulin-dependent.
In insulin-independent diabetes mellitus, which usually effects people over 40, the insulin-producing cells in your pancreas function, but the output of insulin is inadequate for your body's needs. People who have this form of the disorder usually eat too much and are overweight. Their over-eating causes an excess of glucose in their blood, and the pancreas cannot produce enough insulin to cope with it. Heredity is also and important factor. In nearly a third of all cases, there is a family history of the malady. Age is also a factor, because the efficiency of your pancreas decreases with age.
In insulin dependent diabetes mellitus, which occurs mainly in young people, the pancreas produces very little or no insulin. The defect is caused by damage to insulin-producing cells. Your body, unable to use glucose because of the lack of insulin, is forced to obtain energy from fat instead. This can lead to a dangerous condition called diabetic coma. Either form of diabetes may be brought on by other diseases. Some examples of such diseases are acromegaly, hyperthyroidism, Cushing's syndrome and pancreatitis. Such cases of diabetes are known as secondary diabetes, and in some instances the condition continues even after the main disease has been treated successfully.
All forms of the diabetes cause the same main symptoms. You urinate much more than usual and the excessive loss of fluid can make you perpetually thirsty. Your cells do not get enough glucose, so you feel extremely tired and weak. Some diabetics, especially children and young adults, lose a lot of weight, since their fat and muscle are burned up to provide energy. Other symptoms include tingling in the hands and feet, reduced resistance to infection, blurred vision and impotence in men.