Diabetes Mellitus

What is the difference between the causes of type 1 (or type I) and type 2 (or type II) diabetes?

Written by StopDiabetes

Type 1, once (and still often) called insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM), and type 2, once (and still often) called non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM), are the two most well-known types of diabetes. In general, insulin is deficient in a person with type 1 diabetes. With type 2 diabetes, a person’s insulin secretion may be normal, but the target cells for insulin are less responsive than normal, or the insulin secretion may become abnormal. (For more details about type 1, see the chapter “Type 1 Diabetes,” and for type 2 diabetes, see the chapter “Prediabetes and Type 2 Diabetes.”)

Are there divisions within divisions of type 1 and type 2 diabetes?

Yes, research has shown that both type 1 and type 2 diabetes—especially in the past decade—are truly not specific diseases but syndromes (although most health care professionals, researchers, and media still refer to diabetes as a disease). This means that within type 1 and type 2 diabetes profiles there are many subtypes and subdivisions. In fact, it is hoped that in the near future, health care professionals will be offering their patients with diabetes a wider range of therapy plans to treat—and in some cases, possibly mitigate—the effects of this syndrome. It may also mean that everyone who has diabetes will have a more personalized treatment to help cope with their specific type of diabetes.

What are some “hidden” signs of diabetes?

Not all signs of the major types of diabetes are evident. They also may mimic other health problems and are often misinterpreted. Some of the more “hidden” signs of type 1 diabetes—and to a lesser extent type 2 diabetes—include red, tender, or swollen gums and tooth decay; high blood pressure; digestive problems; excessive thirst; mental confusion and fatigue; wounds that heal slowly; and numbness, burning pain, or tingling in the hands and feet. Because some of these symptoms are also signs of other major diseases, it is important to see a health care professional to test for diabetes or other health problems if these symptoms become apparent.

What are some ways to diagnose early signs of diabetes?

Two of the best-known ways to detect early signs of any type of diabetes is to check for glucose in the urine (an “older” way of detecting glucose) and/or test for high blood glucose levels (a “newer” way of detecting glucose). Normally, the hormone insulin is produced by the pancreas, allowing the body to remove glucose from the blood and use it as fuel for cells. If a person has diabetes, the blood glucose in the body rises to unhealthy levels because the glucose is not removed at all or is not removed quickly enough.

When there is too much glucose—or when it reaches a certain level in a person’s body—the glucose essentially spills over into the urine. Although not used as much, and usually only if a test for blood glucose is not available, a special test strip exposed to a person’s urine can detect if blood sugar is high (but it cannot measure if the level is too low). The second, more reliable way (and one used by most health care professionals today) is to measure a person’s blood sugar with a blood glucose test, such as the fasting blood glucose test. (For more about blood glucose tests, see the chapter “Taking Charge of Diabetes.”)

What is the effect of diabetes on the kidneys?

There is often a connection between diabetes and kidneys for a person with diabetes. Called diabetic kidney disease, or diabetic nephropathy, it is the most common kidney disease caused by diabetes. Even when it is controlled, diabetes can lead to chronic kidney disease (CKD) and eventual kidney failure. In fact, it is estimated that more than 40 percent of people who have diabetes can expect to develop CKD. Because of this statistic, in the United States it is often said that diabetes is the most common cause of kidney failure. (For more about kidneys and diabetes, see the chapter “How Diabetes Affects the Urinary System.”)

What is the major effect of diabetes on the heart?

Diabetes and heart problems are often said to go hand in hand. After all, according to Harvard Medical School, once a person has diabetes the risk for heart disease is four to five times greater. Furthermore, it is estimated that about 65 percent of people with diabetes will die from heart disease or stroke. (For more about the heart and diabetes, see the chapter “How Diabetes Affects the Circulatory System.”)

Does diabetes run in families?

Although most people believe diabetes runs in families, whether it does or not actually depends on the type of diabetes. In general, about 80 to 90 percent of people with type 1 diabetes have no family history of the disease, while the majority of people with type 2 diabetes do have a family history of the disease.

Can aspirin affect a person with diabetes?

Yes, an aspirin can affect a person with diabetes—especially by lowering their blood glucose levels below a healthy range, but only with prolonged use and if taken in large amounts (eight or more 325-milligram [mg] tablets per day). Therefore, most doctors believe the occasional aspirin is generally safe for most people with diabetes. (But, as always, patients should check with their doctor to determine whether there is any problem with taking an aspirin and for the correct dosage of aspirin for their condition.) Most doctors usually suggest that people with diabetes check their blood glucose levels while taking the drug. Doctors should also inform patients if they need to be monitored while taking aspirin for any extended period.

Can the weather affect a person with diabetes more than a person without diabetes?

Yes, weather can affect a person with diabetes more than a person without diabetes. For example, in extreme humidity, there is always a risk of heat exhaustion. If a person with diabetes has poor glucose management—which can affect that person’s ability to sweat in the first place—he or she may have more of a tendency to overheat. And because higher blood glucose levels make people urinate more, they can also become dehydrated faster in hot, humid weather. (For more about diabetes and extreme temperatures, see the chapter “Coping with Diabetes.”)

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