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What is Diabetes?

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Diabetes can strike anyone, from any walk of life. And it does. We have all heard phrasese like “type 1 diabetes” and “type 2 diabetes;” but unless you’re living day to day with the disease, you might not know - what exactly is diabetes?

To answer that question, you first need to understand the role of insulin in your body.

When you eat, your body turns food into sugars, or glucose. At that point, your pancreas is supposed to release insulin. Insulin serves a “key” to open your cells, to allow the glucose to enter – and allow you to use the glucose for energy.

If you have Diabetes, this system doesn’t work.

There are two common forms of Diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2.

What is Type 1 Diabetes?

Type 1, or insulin-dependent diabetes, is sometimes called “juvenile” diabetes because it usually develops in children and teenagers, though it can develop at any age. It is the more severe form of diabetes.

With type 1 diabetes, the body’s immune system sees the insulin-producing cells, called “islets,” in the pancreas as foreign and destroys them. In short, your body attacks part of it’s own pancreas. This attack is known as autoimmune disease.

Islets are the cells that sense glucose in the blood and, in response, produce the necessary amount of insulin to normalize blood sugars. As insulin is the “key” to opening your cells and allowing the glucose to enter, without insulin there is no “key,” so the sugar stays. It builds up in the blood, and the body’s cells starve from lack of glucose.

If left untreated, this can damage eyes, kidneys, nerves, and the heart, and can also lead to coma and death.

A person with type 1 diabetes treats the disease by taking insulin injections. This outside source serves as the “key” bringing glucose to the body’s cells. The challenge with this treatment is that it’s not always possible to know how much insulin to take. The amount is based on many factors including food, exercise, stress, emotions and general health. As these factors change day to day, deciding what dose of insulin to take is a daily balancing act. If you take too much, then your body burns too much glucose -- and your blood sugar can drop to a dangerously low level. This is a condition called hypoglycemia, which, if untreated, can be potentially life-threatening.

If you take too little insulin, your body can again be starved of the energy it needs, and your blood sugar can rise to a dangerously high level -- a condition called hyperglycemia. This also increases the chance of long-term complications.

What is Type 2 Diabetes?

This is the most common form of diabetes. Type 2, or non-insulin dependent diabetes, is also called “adult onset” diabetes since it usually develops after the age of 35. However, a number of younger people are now developing type 2 diabetes.

With type 2 diabetes you are able to produce some of your own insulin. Unfortunately it’s not always enough. Sometimes the “key” won’t work, the cells won’t open and this is known as insulin resistance.

Most often type 2 is develops in people who are overweight and live a sedentary lifestyle. Treatment focuses on diet and exercise. If blood sugar levels are still high, oral medications are used to help the body use its own insulin more efficiently. In some cases, insulin injections are necessary.

Sinclair Broadcasting is committed to the health and well-being of our viewers, which is why we’re introducing Sinclair Cares. Every month we’ll bring you information about the “Cause of the Month,” including topical information, education, awareness and prevention. Here’s a look at what causes are coming up:

November American Diabetes Month

December Safe Driving Month

January Shape Up U.S. Month

February American Heart Month

March National Nutrition Month

April National Autism Awareness Month

May National Asthma/Allergy Awareness Month

June Men’s Health Education and Awareness Month

July UV Awareness Month

August National Immunization Awareness Month

September Healthy Aging Month