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Diabetes in Adults

What Is Diabetes?

Last updated on:
15/04/2013

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

Diabetes is a condition in which the glucose (sugar) level in the blood is too high. Glucose is a simple type of sugar that supplies the body with energy. The body is unable to keep the glucose level within the normal range and so the amount of glucose in the blood becomes too high. 

The problem occurs because there is a lack of insulin in the body.

Insulin is a hormone that is needed to metabolize the sugar (glucose) we eat. When the sugar (glucose) we eat passes into the bloodstream, insulin moves the glucose from the blood into the cells, where the glucose  supplies the energy the cells need to function.

Insulin is made in the pancreas.  

There are two kinds of diabetes:

  • Type 1 diabetes - The pancreas stops making insulin completely or does not make enough of it. 
  • Type 2 diabetes - The pancreas still makes some insulin, but the body is not able to use it properly.

In either case the glucose does not get into the cells as normal and accumulates in the blood.

Type 1 diabetes usually starts in children but can also start in adults.

Type 2 diabetes  commonly starts in adults and is also called adult-onset diabetes, 

Most adults with diabetes have type 2 diabetes; Type 2 diabetes accounts for 90 percent of all diabetes cases. In recent years, however, more and more adolescents, and even some children, have developed type 2 diabetes because of increasing amounts of obesity in our country.

What is insulin? How does insulin Work?

Insulin is a hormone made in the pancreas. It controls the level of glucose in the blood. When food is digested the stomach and intestinse the carbohydrates in the food are broken down into sugar molecules, or glucose. Glucose is then absorbed from the intestine into the bloodstream and so the level of glucose in the blood rises. This rise in blood glucose (sugar) normally signals the special cells in the pancreas, called beta cells, to release the right amount of insulin.

Insulin allows glucose and other nutrients (such as amino acids from proteins) to enter muscle cells. There, they can be stored for later or burned for energy.

When the body has a problem making insulin or the muscle cells do not respond to insulin in the right way, diabetes results

Facts About Diabetes in Adults

  • Worldwide, an estimated 366 million people have diabetes.
  • About 25.8 million children and adults in the United States have diabetes. Of those, 7.0 million are unaware that they have the condition.
  • About 79 million people in the United States have prediabetes.
  • Diabetes contributed to the deaths of more than 231,404 Americans in 2007. Diabetes was listed as the underlying cause of death on 71,382 death certificates and was listed as a contributing factor on 160,022 death certificates.
  • Globally, an estimated 4.6 million people will die due to the disease in 2011.
  • Diabetes often leads to blindness, heart and blood vessel disease, strokes, kidney failure, amputations, and nerve damage.
  • Uncontrolled diabetes can complicate pregnancy and put a mother at risk for having a baby with birth defects.
  • In 2007, diabetes cost the United States $174 billion, including $58 billion in indirect costs (such as disability payments and lost work time) and $116 billion in direct medical costs.
  • In 2011, global health-care spending on diabetes reached $465 billion in U.S. dollars.
  • Obesity raises the risk for diabetes by as much as 93 percent, and an inactive lifestyle can raise it by as much as 25 percent.

 

 
 

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From Andrew Maynard - Chair of the University of Michigan Department of Environmental Health Sciences, with help from David Faulkner - 2013 Master of Public Health graduate.