The pancreas produces insulin, a hormone that allows blood sugar to be used by the body as a source of energy. If insulin production drops, or if the body ceases to use the hormone properly, diabetes results.
Type 1 Diabetes, Blood Sugar, and the Pancreas
Type 1 diabetes, or juvenile diabetes, occurs when the pancreas no longer produces sufficient insulin to allow blood sugar to be used as energy. A number of conditions may cause the disease. The auto-immune system may mistakenly perceive insulin-producing cells as a threat, for instance, or chronic inflammation caused by pancreatitis may destroy insulin-producing cells.
Treatment requires the monitoring of daily blood sugar levels. A diabetic diet must be followed, and regular injections of insulin are necessary to control and use blood sugar.
Type 2 Diabetes and Insulin
Type 2, or adult onset, diabetes is the most common form of the disease, accounting for ninety percent of all diabetic cases. Insulin is still produced, but the body does not use the hormone correctly. Changing eating and lifestyle habits can often control the disease.
Although once considered a disease of middle age, rates of the disease are increasing among children and adolescents. Obesity and sedentary lifestyles have been linked to the rise of the disease in children.
Diabetic symptoms can be very subtle, and are often discounted. A large number of type 2 diabetics are unaware they have a problem at all until blood tests reveal abnormal results. Symptoms can include:
- Chronic fatigue
- Mood changes
- Excessive thirst
- Slow healing times
- High infection rates
- Blurry vision
- Frequent urination.
If the condition is left untreated a wide range of diabetic complications are possible. Blood sugar levels may rise or fall to dangerous levels, in extreme cases leading to coma or death. High cholesterol, heart disease, kidney failure and blindness have all been linked to damage caused by unregulated blood sugar levels.
National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse. (2002). Diabetes overview. Retrieved March 6, 2003, from www.niddk.nih.gov/health/diabetes/pubs/dmover/dmover.htm#wh at.