Diabetes mellitus

Medical quality assurance by Dr. Albrecht Nonnenmacher, MD at December 9, 2015
StartDiseasesDiabetes mellitus

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that approximately 29 million people in the United States are living with a form of diabetes mellitus. That is over 9% of the population. Despite diabetes mellitus being an incurable, ever-growing epidemic, people can learn to control their specific type of diabetes through education and lifestyle choices.


Definition & Facts

Diabetes mellitus is what we commonly refer to as, simply, diabetes. There are many types of diabetes, but the three most common forms of diabetes are type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, and gestational diabetes.

Symptoms & Complaints

There are different symptoms associated with each type of diabetes. Gestational diabetes can only be detected through a blood sugar test during the pregnancy. Type 2 diabetics may not have any symptoms, and sometimes they experience the same symptoms as those who have Type 1 diabetes. Those who have type 1 diabetes tend to experience some of the following symptoms quickly and the symptoms can be severe:

Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes:


A normally functioning body breaks down consumed sugars and carbohydrates and creates insulin. Your cells need insulin, which is a hormone, for energy. If a person has diabetes their body is either unable to use the insulin it makes, is unable to make insulin from the sugars and carbohydrates, or has both problems.

Because the cells are unable to use the insulin, it stays in the blood stream causing high blood sugar levels. Different types of diabetes are caused by different factors. Type 1 diabetes is a caused by a genetic disorder where the body’s own immune system has attacked and killed the cells where insulin is made. Type 2 diabetes, which is most common, tends to be caused by lifestyle choices such as poor diet and inactivity, age, and genetics.

Gestational diabetes, which only occurs during pregnancy, is caused by fluctuating hormones. The placenta makes hormones that increase blood sugar levels. If the body can’t make enough insulin to handle the additional blood sugar level, it causes a buildup which turns into gestational diabetes. If it is not controlled the baby can have an excessive birth weight because their bodies respond by having increased insulin spikes as well. Gestational diabetes can also cause premature birth and cause the baby to be at greater risk of diabetes as an adult.

Diagnosis & Tests

A small percentage of the population is diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. It is usually found in children and young adults around the age of 14. It is usually diagnosed when one or more of the symptoms listed above occur. The symptoms can come on quickly and markedly. Type 2 diabetes is diagnosed through a test called a glycated hemoglobin or A1C test. The Mayo Clinic says that the A1C test measures your blood sugar level average over two to three months.

The higher your blood sugar levels are the more sugar will be attached to the hemoglobin. Normal A1C levels are below 5.7 percent. If the A1C test is not available, other tests such as a random blood sugar test, an oral glucose tolerance test, or a fasted blood sugar test can be used for a diagnosis.

Gestational diabetes can only be detected through a blood sugar test during pregnancy. The mother might experience high blood pressure known as preeclampsia. This is a serious complication during pregnancy that can threaten the lives of both mother and child. If a pregnant woman develops gestational diabetes, she and her child are more likely to have type 2 diabetes in later years.

Treatment & Therapy

Type 1 diabetes is treated by taking insulin shots in fatty areas of the body where the insulin can be absorbed and used by the cells that need it. Insulin can’t be taken in a pill form because stomach acid destroys the insulin before it can be absorbed for use.

The American Diabetes Association reported on research that a new form of inhalable insulin is just as effective for type 1 diabetics as injectable insulin, and this non-invasive form of taking insulin is much more convenient for users. Type 2 diabetics can control their diabetes through healthy diet, exercise, and weight loss. When diet and exercise are not enough, then a doctor can prescribe medications.

There are a plethora of medications available, but it is important for you to work with your doctor to find the right medication in the right dosage. Gestational diabetes needs to be controlled throughout the pregnancy through healthy diet and exercise so that both the mother and baby can remain healthy.

Prevention & Prophylaxis

All diabetics should take part in regular, moderate exercise. Exercise is important in helping to regulate blood sugar levels. Diet is another important factor for all diabetics. Diabetics should be aware of three vital parts of their diet. One is following the plate method.

The plate method states that you look at a plate as if it’s divided into three sections. One half of your plate should be filled with two servings of non-starchy vegetables, ¼ should be filled with lean protein, and the remaining ¼ should be a starchy vegetable or whole grain. Plate method also allows for dairy and fruit. The second part of diabetic diet is to be aware of carbohydrate intake. Carbohydrates come in different forms, and an overabundance of carbohydrates can lead to higher blood sugar levels. A diabetic should stick to complex carbohydrates to control blood sugar the most efficiently.

Lastly, diabetics should also be aware of the glycemic index. Certain foods spike insulin responses. They glycemic index ranks carbohydrates on a scale of 0 to 100. The foods that are high on the glycemic index, or closer to 100, are the ones that spike blood sugar levels. Diabetics should avoid high glycemic carbohydrates. Overall, leading a healthy lifestyle will keep diabetes in control and help any diabetic to lead a long, normal life.