National Diabetes Awareness Month: Know the Facts

Diabetes Facts

As one of the most prevalent diseases in the United States, diabetes impacts nearly 9.3 percent of the entire population. That translates to around 29.1 million Americans who have diabetes -- with 8.1 million of them undiagnosed -- according to the American Diabetes Association.

There are two common types of diabetes, Type 1 and Type 2. To understand the differences between these types and what it means for the people who have it, it’s important to first understand a few key terms they share: insulin and glucose.

What is Insulin?

Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas. Insulin allows your body to use the carbohydrates (sugar) it gets from food sources. It acts as a “regulator” for carbohydrates in your body and prevents your blood sugar levels from becoming too high or too low.

When you eat carbohydrates (sugars), your body either breaks them down for energy, or stores them for future energy needs.

Insulin also helps your body store the sugars and allows the body to release the sugars into your blood stream when your body needs the energy.

What is Glucose?

Glucose, a simple sugar, is an important energy source needed by all cells and organs of our bodies. Glucose comes from various foods we eat, such as fruit, bread, pasta and cereals. Within our stomachs, foods are broken down and then

absorbed into the bloodstream.

Type 1 Diabetes

People with type 1 diabetes are not able to make insulin. Without this important hormone to regulate blood sugar levels, they develop high blood sugar called hyperglycemia.

If left untreated, hyperglycemia can cause long-term complications such as:

  • Nerve damage
  • Kidney failure
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Vision problems
  • Neuropathy, or nerve damage
  • Infections and non-healing wounds
  • Foot complications

There is no current cure for Type 1 diabetes, which is usually diagnosed in children. The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia are two of the leading global organizations focused on curing Type 1 diabetes, or T1D as it’s also known.

People with type 1 diabetes need to take medications (insulin) in order to help their body process carbohydrates.

Type 2 Diabetes

People with type 2 diabetes have insulin in their bodies, but are unable to use insulin effectively. Over time, they become more and more insulin resistant, and their pancreas produces less and less insulin.

Like type 1 diabetes, if left untreated, people with diabetes can experience serious complications such as:

  • Nerve damage
  • Kidney failure
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Vision problems
  • Neuropathy, or nerve damage
  • Infections and non-healing wounds
  • Foot complications

Type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed by maintaining a healthy weight, staying active and eating a healthy diet. Type 2 diabetes is usually diagnosed in adults; however, more children are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

People with type 2 diabetes may need a combination of medications to get their blood sugar levels stable. Depending on the severity of their blood sugar levels, people with type 2 diabetes may also be able to manage their disease with diet and exercise.

Diabetes Treatment at Penn

Endocrinologists at the Penn Rodebaugh Diabetes Center specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, pre-diabetes, gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) and other related conditions.

They work closely with patients’ primary care providers to treat and manage diabetes and related conditions.

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