WHAT IS DIABETES?
Diabetes is a metabolic condition where the glucose in the bloodstream is too high. Metabolism is the process for our bodies to use digested food for energy and growth. When we eat carbohydrate foods these foods are digested in the stomach and the glucose from the foods enters our bloodstream.
Glucose is the principal source of fuel for our body.
An organ called the pancreas secretes a hormone called insulin. After eating, the pancreas automatically releases an adequate quantity of insulin, which enables the glucose in our bloodstream to enter the cells. This action lowers the blood glucose level and assists to regulate the amount of glucose in our blood.
A person with diabetes has a condition in which the quantity of glucose in the blood is too high (hyperglycemia). This is because the body does not produce enough insulin, or produces no insulin, or has cells that do not respond properly to the insulin the pancreas produces.
Excess blood glucose is eventually excreted out of the body in the urine. Even though the blood has adequate glucose, the cells are not receiving the glucose, which is essential for the body’s energy and growth requirements.
Diabetes is a potentially life threatening condition if not managed well.
There are 3 main types of Diabetes:
The pancreas produces no insulin at all. A person with Type 1 diabetes is reliant on daily insulin injections for life. it is important to control it the best you can, because at present, there is no cure.
The pancreas is making some insulin, but not enough for daily needs. Diet, exercise, education and other lifestyle factors are critical to self-managing Type 2 diabetes. Sometimes oral medication or insulin is also required.
Gestational diabetes is when a pregnant woman has high levels of glucose in her blood. High blood glucose is caused because the mother cannot produce enough insulin (a pregnant woman’s insulin needs are two to three times that of someone who is not pregnant). Unlike Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes is only temporary and usually disappears after pregnancy. However, a woman who has had gestational diabetes has an increased risk (50-60%) of developing Type 2 diabetes in the future; therefore they should be tested for diabetes each year.
There are other forms of diabetes such as MODY ( Maturity Onset Diabetes of the Young: a rare form of diabetes which is different from both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, and runs strongly in families). and forms of diabetes which are secondary to other medical conditions, or to certain medications. LADA is slow-onset Type 1 autoimmune diabetes in adulthood.
Do I have diabetes?
See your general practice team if you think you might have diabetes.
- If there is a possibility that you might have diabetes, you’ll be given some forms to take to a blood test centre.
- If your blood test results show you have diabetes or pre-diabetes, you’ll be offered advice and/or treatment and also referral to the Diabetes Centre if required.
- If the results show you don’t have diabetes, but you do have pre-diabetes, or other risk factors, your general practice team will offer advice about staying healthy and what you can do to avoid getting Type 2 diabetes, and may also offer you information on pre-diabetes classes.
Go to www.healthinfo.co.nz and look under diabetes in A-Z Health topics for more information.
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