NEW YORK, NY, UNITED STATES, May 11, 2023/ — Diabetes mellitus—often shortened to just “diabetes”—is one of the most common diseases in the world, affecting more than 8% of all adults. Diabetes is a chronic condition, meaning it lasts a long time, often forever. There isn’t a cure for diabetes, but there are different ways to manage it. Dr. Denise Pate with Medical Offices of Manhattan has the details.
“The body converts food into a kind of sugar called glucose, which then gets released into your bloodstream. The pancreas makes a hormone called insulin that allows your cells to consume the glucose. This is how the body’s cells get energy. But with diabetes, either the insulin isn’t being produced, or the cells aren’t responding to it, so glucose builds up in the bloodstream, and that can lead to major issues,” said Pate.

There are many types of diabetes. Type 1 and type 2 are the most common, with type 2 accounting for about 90% of all diabetes cases and type 1 making up most of the rest. Type 1 is something people are born with and is usually diagnosed by early adulthood. With type 1 diabetes, the body simply stops producing insulin. Type 2 diabetes develops over time. The pancreas still makes insulin, but the cells in the body stop responding to it.

Gestational diabetes is also common. This form of diabetes occurs during pregnancy, and it’s something doctors will be alert for during this time. It usually resolves on its own after childbirth, but not always. Other less common forms of diabetes can include:

Latent autoimmune diabetes in adults (LUDA, sometimes called type 1.5)
Maturity-onset diabetes of the young (MODY)
Diabetes caused by certain medications
Diabetes caused by other diseases like pancreatitis

“Prediabetes is also a significant form to be aware of. About a third of US adults fall into the prediabetes category, and most don’t know they have it. Having prediabetes means that your blood sugar levels are too high, but are still shy of the requirements for a type 2 diabetes diagnosis. It’s so important to know about this, because this is when it’s still possible to avoid diabetes,” Pate said.

Symptoms of both diabetes and prediabetes can include:

Being very thirsty or very hungry
Having to urinate often
Blurry vision
Unexplained weight loss
Tingling or numbness in the hand or feet
Frequent infections, including yeast infections
Having sores that don’t heal or heal very slowly
Dry skin

However, many people might have diabetes or prediabetes without having any symptoms yet, though complications will eventually become noticeable. For people with an increased risk of diabetes, regular testing of blood sugar levels could help catch this disease early and avoid serious problems.

Type 1 diabetes is more common in people with immediate family members who also have type 1 diabetes. It can occur at any age, but it’s usually diagnosed by early adulthood.

“People are at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes if they’re overweight, over the age of 45, or have a family history of diabetes. Exercising fewer than 3 times per week also increases risk. Anyone who has ever had gestational diabetes also has a higher risk of eventually having type 2 diabetes,” said Pate.

While type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented, type 2 can be prevented by making healthy lifestyle choices related to diet, exercise, and tobacco use. Some of the ways to reduce the likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes include:

Quit smoking, or avoid starting
Follow a daily exercise routine that includes at least 30 minutes of moderate activity
Eat more fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains
Avoid refined carbohydrates, saturated fats, and trans fats
Reduce portion size
For people who are overweight or have obesity, aim to lose 5% body weight, and then maintain that weight

Once diabetes sets in, a doctor will be able to diagnose it using blood testing. They will also gather information about any family history of diabetes or autoimmune disorders.

“Even after someone has been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, the prevention methods are still effective for minimizing the impact of diabetes, though at that point they might also be prescribed medications which may or may not include insulin,” said Pate.

“For people with type 1 diabetes, insulin injections will definitely be needed. There are a lot of different ways to monitor and deliver insulin, and different types will either start working more or less rapidly and will last for different amounts of time. A doctor can help navigate the varying options to find a good fit,” Pate added.

Over time, diabetes is associated with a number of serious complications. Some of these include:

Heart disease
Heart attacks
Kidney disease
Nerve damage
Loss of vision or hearing

“For those at risk of diabetes, it’s so important for overall health to reduce your risk while you can. Making a few healthy choices now will pay dividends later. And for those who aren’t sure where to start, ask your doctor,” said Pate.

Medical Offices of Manhattan offers comprehensive health care at four locations in New York City.

Denise Pate, MD, is a board-certified internal medicine specialist and Medical Director at Medical Offices of Manhattan.