It’s likely that you know at least one of the 422 million people in the world with diabetes mellitus. But what do you really know about the common disease? In honor of National Diabetes Month this November, here are five facts about diabetes:
- The word “diabetes” originates from the Greek word for siphon because one of the characteristic symptoms of the disease is polyuria, or excessive urination. Other symptoms include excessive thirst (polydipsia), urination at night (nocturia), blurry vision, fatigue, and weight loss.
- There are two major categories of diabetes, but both have problems with insulin function in common. Insulin is an important hormone secreted by the pancreas and functions to help drive glucose (sugar) into cells. When insulin isn’t working properly, too much glucose remains in the blood (hyperglycemia).
- In type 1 diabetes, the pancreatic cells that make insulin are destructed, so insulin can’t be made in proper amounts. This is usually in younger patients. In type 2 diabetes, the patient’s tissues have become resistant to insulin. Type 2 diabetes is associated with obesity and accounts for more than 90% of diabetes in adults. Gestational diabetes can also occur in pregnant women without a previous history of diabetes.
- Complications of uncontrolled diabetes are vast and grim. Chronic hyperglycemia can cause damage to blood vessels, leading to diabetic retinopathy causing blindness, nephropathy causing chronic kidney disease, and neuropathy causing numbness, tingling, and pain of the extremities.
- The prevalence of diabetes has been on the rise over the past several decades, affecting 8.5% of the adult population worldwide.