What Is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a metabolic disorder in which the blood glucose levels remain high
because the cells cannot absorb glucose either because of zero or insufficient
production of insulin or because of the inability of the insulin to aid glucose
absorption. Depending on which of these factors is leading to the raised blood
glucose levels, diabetes can be categorized into type 1 and type 2.
But first, a brief step-by-step refresher on how glucose is metabolized in thebody and how that is disrupted when you have diabetes.
What Happens When You Don’t Have Diabetes?
The carbohydrates, sugars, and some milk and dairy products you eat break down
into glucose in the stomach. It is then released into your bloodstream. The
amount of glucose present in your blood at any given point of time is what
doctors refer to as your blood glucose level.
Some of the glucose is immediately absorbed by your liver cells to be converted
into glycogen, which acts as a reserve source of energy for times when the
glucose levels are low.As your body starts sensing a rise in the blood glucose levels, your pancreas
produces the hormone insulin. Insulin binds with the receptors on the muscle and
fat cell membranes to let the glucose pass into the cells where it is then
burned to release energy.1 When you don’t have diabetes, your insulin levels are
optimum, and so glucose metabolism and energy release happen smoothly.
What Happens When You Have Diabetes?
If you have diabetes, your fasting glucose level is over 126 mg/dl and over 200
mg/dl two hours after a meal.Your blood glucose naturally rises after you’ve eaten a meal. But if your body
does not produce insulin or produces it in insufficient quantities, the glucose
level will remain high. If the glucose level exceeds 140 mg/dl two hours after a
meal, you’d be diagnosed as a prediabetic, and if it’s over 200 mg/dl, you are diabetic.
But even in times when you are fasting, to make up for the low levels, your
liver releases some glucose. However, if this blood glucose level after eight
hours of fasting is more than 108 mg/dl, you are a pre-diabetic, and if it
exceeds 126 mg/dl, you have diabetes.
Type 1 Diabetes
Teenagers, especially boys, are more often diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes affects about 5 to 10 percent of the diabetic population,
especially people under 30, sometimes even beginning before one turns 15, which
is why it is also called juvenile diabetes. It has also been found to affect
more boys than girls.
In this chronic autoimmune condition, often genetically inherited, the body’s
immunity system destroys the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. As a
result, glucose cannot enter the cells and accumulates in the blood, exceeding
the normal level.