Diabetes 101 - What is Diabetes?

Have you ever wonder what exactly diabetes is, and why people get it? Do you know the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes? In recognition of diabetes awareness month this November, we hope you will take a minute to learn a little more about this disease, its risk factors, and whether you or someone you know may be at risk for getting diabetes. 

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), millions of people around the world live with diabetes or know someone living with diabetes. No matter what form of diabetes you are suffering from, it is not yet curable. However, the good news is it is a very treatable and manageable disease. People who are at high risk for type 2 diabetes can lower their risk by more than half if they make healthy changes. These changes include: eating healthy, getting more physical activity, and losing weight.

Who’s at risk?

Generally speaking, if you fall into most of the factors below, you could be at a greater risk of developing type II diabetes. The American Diabetes Association offers a short quiz online that can help you determine your risk. General risk factors include:

  • 60 years or older.
  • You are a man.
  • Or, you are a woman who has been previously diagnosed with gestational diabetes.
  • You have high blood pressure.
  • You are not physically active and overweight*

*It is important to note that even though being overweight is a risk factor for developing diabetes, other risk factors such as physical activity, family history, ethnicity, and age also play a role.

The basics – what are the differences between type 1 and type 2?

Type 1 Diabetes:

Most people think that type 1 diabetes is something you develop early on in life, when you are a child. However, this disease can occur at any age. In fact, there are more adults who have type 1 diabetes than children, although it was previously known as juvenile diabetes.

According to the ADA, in type 1 diabetes, the body does not produce insulin. The body breaks down the carbohydrates you eat into blood glucose (also called blood sugar), which it uses for energy. Insulin is a hormone that the body needs to get glucose from the bloodstream into the cells of the body. With the help of insulin therapy and other treatments, even young children can learn to manage their condition and live long, healthy lives.

Type 2 Diabetes:

With type II diabetes, your body produces insulin, however, it does not use it properly. The ADA explains that early on in the disease, your pancreas will generate extra insulin to make up for it. But, over time it isn't able to keep up and can't make enough insulin to keep your blood glucose at normal levels. 

Most people who are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes can keep their blood glucose at a healthy level with a combination of meal planning, physical activity, and taking oral medications. But over time, the body gradually produces less and less of its own insulin, and eventually oral medications may not be enough to keep blood glucose levels in a healthy range.

Diagnosing Diabetes.

The first step to diagnosing diabetes is to talk to your primary care physician about your risk for diabetes. They will determine if you need to be tested. Since there aren’t always clear signs or symptoms of diabetes, talking to your doctor is the best way to stay proactive.

According to the ADA, there are several ways to diagnose diabetes, which include a number of blood tests.

  • A1C

The A1C test measures your average blood glucose for the past 2 to 3 months. The advantages of being diagnosed this way are that you don't have to fast or drink anything.

Diabetes is diagnosed at an A1C of greater than or equal to 6.5%

  • Fasting Plasma Glucose (FPG)

This test checks your fasting blood glucose levels. Fasting means after not having anything to eat or drink (except water) for at least 8 hours before the test. This test is usually done first thing in the morning, before breakfast.

Diabetes is diagnosed at fasting blood glucose of greater than or equal to 126 mg/dl

  • Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (also called the OGTT)

The OGTT is a two-hour test that checks your blood glucose levels before and 2 hours after you drink a special sweet drink. It tells the doctor how your body processes glucose.

Diabetes is diagnosed at 2 hour blood glucose of greater than or equal to 200 mg/dl

  • Random/ Casual Plasma Glucose Test

This test is a blood check at any time of the day when you have severe diabetes symptoms.

Diabetes is diagnosed at blood glucose of greater than or equal to 200 mg/dl

What happens after diagnosis?

Your doctor and endocrinologist will come up with a plan to help you manage your diabetes, and help you live a full life. The Diabetes Care Center at Firelands Regional Medical Center, located in the Center for Coordinated Care, is committed to providing the highest quality of care for patients with diabetes and metabolic disorders, including:

  • Prediabetes
  • Diabetes: Type 1 diabetes, Type 2 diabetes, and those using insulin pumps or continuous glucose monitoring systems.
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Obesity: Related to endocrine disorders
  • Vitamin D deficiency

If you or a loved one has received a diabetes diagnosis, ongoing support is available in the form of diabetes self-management education at Firelands Regional Medical Center. The program is for individuals diagnosed with diabetes and their families. It’s designed to provide educational information and self-management skills while encouraging patients to live an active lifestyle and prioritize their health. A diabetes patient must have a referral from their provider to take part in the self-management education. To learn more, please call 419-557-6992.