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Diabetes is a disease in which your body is unable to properly use and
store glucose. Glucose backs up in the bloodstream causing your blood glucose or
“sugar” to rise too high.

There are two major types of diabetes, Type I and Type II. In Type I
diabetes, your body completely stops producing any insulin, a hormone that lets
your body use glucose found in foods for energy. People with Type I diabetes
must take daily insulin injections to survive. This form of diabetes usually
develops in children or young adults, but can happen at any age. In Type II
diabetes, the body produces insulin, but not enough to properly convert food
into energy. This form of diabetes usually occurs in people who are over 40,
overweight, and have a family history of diabetes.

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People with diabetes often experience symptoms. Some of the symptoms
1)being very thirsty
2)having to go to the bathroom very frequently
3)weight loss
4)increased hunger
5)blurry vision
6)skin infections
7)wounds that don’t heal
8)and/or extreme unexplained fatigue
In some cases, there are no symptoms, this happens at times with Type II
diabetes. In this case, people can live for months, even years without knowing
they have the disease. This form of diabetes comes on so gradually that symptoms
might not even be recognized.

Diabetes can occur in anyone. However, people who have close relatives
with the disease are somewhat more likely to develop it. The risk of getting
diabetes also increases as people grow older. People who are over 40 and
overweight are more likely to get diabetes. So are people of African-American,
Hispanic or Asian heritage. Also, people who develop diabetes while pregnant are
more likely to develop full-blown diabetes later in life.

There are certain things that everyone who has diabetes, whether Type I
or Type II, needs to do to be healthy. You need to have an eating plan. You need
to pay attention to how much you exercise, because exercise can help your body
use insulin better to convert glucose into energy for cells. Everyone with Type
I diabetes, and some people with Type II diabetes, also need to take insulin
injections. Some people with Type II diabetes take pills called “oral agents”
which help their bodies produce more insulin and/or use the insulin it is
producing better. Some people with Type II diabetes can control their disease
with weight loss, diet and exercise alone and don’t need any medication.

Everyone who has diabetes should be seen at least once every six months
by a diabetes specialist. You should also be seen periodically by other members
of a diabetes treatment team, including a diabetes nurse educator, and a
diabetes dietitian educator who helps you develop a meal plan that works best
for you. Ideally , you should also see an exercise physiologist for help in
developing an exercise plan, and if you think you need it, a social worker,
psychologist or other mental health professional for help with the stresses and
challenges of living with a chronic disease. Everyone who has diabetes should
have regular eye exams at least once a year by an ophthalmologist to make sure
that any eye problems associated with diabetes are caught early, and treated
before they become serious.

Also, people with diabetes need to learn how to monitor their blood
sugars day-to-day at home using home blood sugar monitoring. This daily testing,
which your diabetes educator can explain to you, will help you see how well your
meal plan, exercise, and medication are working to keep your blood sugars in a
normal range.

Your health care team will encourage you to follow your meal plan and
exercise program, use your medications and monitor your blood sugars regularly
to keep your blood sugars in as normal a range as possible as much of the time
as possible. Why is this so important? Because poorly managed diabetes can lead
to a host of long-term complications among them are heart attacks, strokes,
blindness, kidney failure, blood vessel disease that requires an amputation,
nerve damage, and impotence in men.

But happily, a recent nationwide study completed over a 10-year period
showed that if people keep their blood sugars as close to normal as possible,
they can reduce their risk of developing some of these complications by 50
percent or more.

A study being conducted at Joslin Diabetes Center and several other
sites nationwide is screening the immediate relatives of someone with Type I
diabetes because we can now identify those who will develop this form of the
disease as much as five or more years in advance.

Type II diabetes is the most common type of diabetes, yet we still do
not understand it very well. But recent research does suggest that there are
some things you can do to prevent this form of diabetes, particularly if it runs
in your family, or if you have had gestational diabetes, or if you are a member
of an ethnic group that is more prone to this disease.

In simplest terms, to prevent or slow the development of Type II
diabetes you should try to maintain your weight in as normal a range as possible.

If you are overweight, lose weight. And, try to develop a regular exercise
program, as the exercise will help your body use insulin more effectively.


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