Diabetes mellitus (DM) is a physical disorder involving the pancreas, a gland which produces little or no insulin. Insulin is a hormone that acts to regulate the metabolism of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. Insulin lowers the blood glucose (sugar) level and promotes transport and entry of glucose into the muscle cells and other tissues for their energy needs and into the liver and fat cells for storage. Inadequate secretion of insulin causes elevated blood sugar and lipid levels. What is the result? Some common symptoms of DM - excessive thirst and hunger. As the disease progresses the body's inability to store or use glucose cause weight loss and fatigue. Another common symptom that is often overlooked is blurred vision.
DM affects about 16 million Americans, yet perhaps only half of them know they have it. Often those with the most common type of diabetes (type 2), which tend to show up in older adults, confuse their symptoms with aging or being overweight. As a result, they don't get the treatment they need. Left untreated, diabetes can cause serious problems, including an increased risk of stroke and heart attack, blindness, kidney trouble, nerve damage, and amputation (loss) of limbs due to circulatory problems.
There are two types of diabetes, Type 1, also know as juvenile appears early in life - 14 years of age or younger - when the pancreas stops working. Type 2 occurs later in life. About 90 percent of diabetics have type II diabetes, which results when the muscles become resistant to insulin, even though the body may be producing enough.
Is there a cure for diabetes mellitus? No, but both types can be managed well with a combination of drugs, exercise, a well-balanced, healthy diet and monitoring of blood sugar levels.
What should you do if you suspect you might have diabetes? See your doctor and follow his or her advice.