What is Diabetes? And, how can In-Home Care help seniors who have diabetes?

The name diabetes mellitus does not just refer to one condition, but a collection of diseases; these impact the ways that the body makes use of glucose or blood sugar. With diabetes, the blood glucose levels are too high. Glucose is necessary for health because it is a vital energy source for those cells that muscles and tissues consist of; also, it is the main fuel source for the brain.

Insulin is also a key factor in diabetes. It is a hormone that aids the glucose in getting into the cells so they can receive the proper energy. In the less common type of diabetes, type 1, the body simply does not make insulin. The more common variety, type 2, gives the body difficulty in making or using insulin well. With insufficient insulin levels, the glucose remains in the blood.


Prevalence of Diabetes

Eight percent of the American population, or 24 million Americans, have been diagnosed with diabetes. Of those cases, somewhere between 90% to 95% are type 2. Diabetes is quite common among the older part of the population. In fact, nearly a quarter of older people aged 60 years and more have diabetes.


Symptoms of Diabetes

Diabetes has varying symptoms depending on how high the blood glucose levels are elevated. In fact, some people, particularly those who are prediabetic, which means having elevated blood sugar levels but not so high as to be considered diabetic, or those with type 2 diabetes, may not experience initial symptoms. In type 1 diabetes, the symptoms have a tendency to strike quickly and more severely.

Symptoms of both types of diabetes include:

  • Frequent urination
  • Increased thirst
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Extreme hunger
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Irritability
  • Ketones within the urine
  • Sores that heal slowly, if at all
  • Frequent infections, including skin, gums, and vaginal infections


Type 1 Diabetes Causes

As yet, the precise cause of type 1 diabetes is not known. What research has found is that the immune system attacks, destroying the pancreas’s insulin-producing cells. This leaves the patient with little, if any, insulin. Then, instead of glucose being carried into the cells, it builds up within the bloodstream.


Type 2 Diabetes and Prediabetes Causes

In these cases, the cells start to resist the action of insulin, as well as the pancreas being incapable of making enough insulin in order to overcome this resistance. Instead of glucose moving into the cells where it is necessary for energy, the sugar builds up within the bloodstream instead, increasing the blood sugar ratio.


Risk Factors for Type 1 Diabetes

While the precise cause of type 1 diabetes is not yet known, there are factors that might signal a greater risk.

These include:

  • Family history: If a parent or sibling is diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, the risk of being diagnosed with it increases.
  • Environmental factors: Such circumstances as exposure to viral illnesses might well play a role in this type of diabetes.