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Diabetes Type 1

Diabetes means your blood glucose, or blood sugar, levels are too high. With type 1 diabetes, your pancreas does not make insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps glucose get into your cells to give them energy. Without insulin, too much glucose stays in your blood. Over time, high blood glucose can lead to serious problems with your heart, eyes, kidneys, nerves, and gums and teeth.

Type 1 diabetes happens most often in children and young adults but can appear at any age. Symptoms may include:

  • Being very thirsty
  • Urinating often
  • Feeling very hungry or tired
  • Losing weight without trying
  • Having sores that heal slowly
  • Having dry, itchy skin
  • Losing the feeling in your feet or having tingling in your feet
  • Having blurry eyesight

A blood test can show if you have diabetes. If you do, you will need to take insulin for the rest of your life. A blood test called the A1C can check to see how well you are managing your diabetes.

NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

Prediabetes

What is prediabetes?

Prediabetes means that your blood glucose, or blood sugar, levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be called diabetes. Glucose comes from the foods you eat. Too much glucose in your blood can damage your body over time.

If you have prediabetes, you are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. But if you make some lifestyle changes now, you may be able to delay or prevent type 2 diabetes.

What causes prediabetes?

Prediabetes usually happens when your body has a problem with insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps the glucose get into your cells to give them energy. A problem with insulin could be:

  • Insulin resistance, a condition in which the body can't use its insulin properly. It makes it hard for your cells to get glucose from your blood. This can cause your blood sugar levels to rise.
  • Your body can't make enough insulin to keep your blood sugar levels at a healthy level

Researchers think that being overweight and not getting regular physical activity are major factors in causing prediabetes.

Who is at risk for prediabetes?

About 1 out of every 3 adults has prediabetes. It is more common in people who:

  • Are overweight or have obesity
  • Are age 45 or older
  • Have a parent, brother, or sister with diabetes
  • Are African American, Alaska Native, American Indian, Asian American, Hispanic/Latino, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander American
  • Are not physically active
  • Have health conditions such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol
  • Have had gestational diabetes (diabetes in pregnancy)
  • Have a history of heart disease or stroke
  • Have metabolic syndrome
  • Have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
What are the symptoms of prediabetes?

Most people don't know they have prediabetes because usually there are no symptoms.

Some people with prediabetes may have darkened skin in the armpit or on the back and sides of the neck. They may also have many small skin growths in those same areas.

How is prediabetes diagnosed?

There are a few different blood tests that can diagnose prediabetes. The most common ones are:

  • Fasting plasma glucose (FPG) test, which measures your blood sugar at a single point in time. You need to fast (not eat or drink) for at least 8 hours before the test. The results of the test are given in mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter):
    • A normal level is 99 or below
    • Prediabetes is 100 to 125
    • Type 2 diabetes is 126 and above
  • A1C test, which measures your average blood sugar over the past 3 months. The results of an A1C test are given as a percentage. The higher the percentage, the higher your blood sugar levels have been.
    • A normal level is below 5.7%
    • Prediabetes is between 5.7 to 6.4%
    • Type 2 diabetes is above 6.5%
If I have prediabetes, will I get diabetes?

If you have prediabetes, you may be able to delay or prevent type 2 diabetes through lifestyle changes:

  • Losing weight, if you are overweight
  • Getting regular physical activity
  • Following a healthy, reduced-calorie eating plan

In some cases, your health care provider may also recommend taking diabetes medicines.

Can prediabetes be prevented?

If you are at risk for prediabetes, those same lifestyle changes (losing weight, regular physical activity, and a healthy eating plan) may prevent you from getting it.

NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

Diabetes

Diabetes is a disease in which your blood glucose, or blood sugar, levels are too high. Glucose comes from the foods you eat. Insulin is a hormone that helps the glucose get into your cells to give them energy. With type 1 diabetes, your body does not make insulin. With type 2 diabetes, the more common type, your body does not make or use insulin well. Without enough insulin, the glucose stays in your blood. You can also have prediabetes. This means that your blood sugar is higher than normal but not high enough to be called diabetes. Having prediabetes puts you at a higher risk of getting type 2 diabetes.

Over time, having too much glucose in your blood can cause serious problems. It can damage your eyes, kidneys, and nerves. Diabetes can also cause heart disease, stroke and even the need to remove a limb. Pregnant women can also get diabetes, called gestational diabetes.

Blood tests can show if you have diabetes. One type of test, the A1C, can also check on how you are managing your diabetes. Exercise, weight control and sticking to your meal plan can help control your diabetes. You should also monitor your blood glucose level and take medicine if prescribed.

NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

Diabetic Kidney Problems

If you have diabetes, your blood glucose, or blood sugar, levels are too high. Over time, this can damage your kidneys. Your kidneys clean your blood. If they are damaged, waste and fluids build up in your blood instead of leaving your body.

Kidney damage from diabetes is called diabetic nephropathy. It begins long before you have symptoms. People with diabetes should get regular screenings for kidney disease. Tests include a urine test to detect protein in your urine and a blood test to show how well your kidneys are working.

If the damage continues, your kidneys could fail. In fact, diabetes is the most common cause of kidney failure in the United States. People with kidney failure need either dialysis or a kidney transplant.

You can slow down kidney damage or keep it from getting worse. Controlling your blood sugar and blood pressure, taking your medicines and not eating too much protein can help.

NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

Diabetic Eye Problems

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease in which your blood glucose, or blood sugar, levels are too high. Glucose comes from foods you eat. The cells of your body need glucose for energy. A hormone called insulin helps the glucose get into your cells.

With type 1 diabetes, your body doesn't make insulin. With type 2 diabetes, your body doesn't make or use insulin well. Without enough insulin, glucose builds up in your blood and causes high blood sugar levels.

What eye problems can diabetes cause?

Over time, high blood sugar may damage the blood vessels and lenses in your eyes. This can lead to serious diabetic eye problems which can harm your vision and sometimes cause blindness. Some common diabetes eye problems include:

  • Diabetic retinopathy, which is the leading cause of blindness in American adults. It affects blood vessels in the retina (the light-sensitive layer of tissue in the back of your eye). The blood vessels may swell and leak fluid into your eye. If it's not treated, it can cause serious problems such as vision loss and retinal detachment, where the retina is pulled away from its normal position at the back of your eye.
  • Diabetic macular edema (DME), which happens when blood vessels in the retina leak fluid into the macula (a part of the retina needed for sharp, central vision). This usually develops in people who already have other signs of diabetic retinopathy.
  • Glaucoma, a group of eye diseases that can damage the optic nerve (the bundle of nerves that connects the eye to the brain). Glaucoma from diabetes happens when the blood vessels in the front of your eye are damaged, and new blood vessels grow near the iris (the colored part of your eye). The blood vessels block the space where fluid drains from your eye. This causes fluid to build up and pressure to increase inside your eye.
  • Cataract, which happen when the clear lens in the front of your eye becomes cloudy. Cataracts are common as people age. But people with diabetes are more likely to develop cataracts younger and faster than people without diabetes. Researchers think that high glucose levels cause deposits to build up in the lenses of your eyes.
Who is more likely to develop diabetic eye problems?

Anyone with diabetes can develop diabetic eye disease. But your risk of developing it is higher if you:

  • Have had diabetes for a long time
  • Don't have good control over your high blood sugar or high blood pressure
  • Are pregnant
  • Have high blood cholesterol
  • Smoke tobacco
What are the symptoms of diabetic eye problems?

In the early stages, diabetic eye problems usually don't have any symptoms. That's why regular dilated eye exams are so important, even if you think your eyes are healthy.

You should also watch for sudden changes in your vision that could mean an emergency. Call your doctor right away if you notice any of these symptoms:

  • Many new spots or dark wavy strings floating in your vision (floaters)
  • Flashes of light
  • A dark shadow over part of your vision, like a curtain
  • Vision loss
  • Eye pain or redness

Talk with your doctor if you have these symptoms, even if they come and go:

  • Spots or dark wavy strings floating in your vision
  • Blurry or wavy vision
  • Vision that changes a lot
  • Trouble seeing colors
How are diabetic eye problems diagnosed?

Eye doctors do dilated eye exams to diagnose eye problems. A dilated eye exam uses eye drops to open your pupils wide so your doctor can look for signs of eye problems and treat them before they harm your vision. Your doctor will also test your vision and measure the pressure in your eyes.

What are the treatments for diabetic eye problems?

Treatment for diabetic eye problems depends on the problem and how serious it is. Some of the treatments include:

  • Lasers to stop blood vessels from leaking
  • Injections (shots) in the eye to stop new, leaky blood vessels from growing
  • Surgery to remove blood and scar tissue or replace a cloudy lens
  • Eye drops to lower fluid pressure in the eye

But these treatments aren't cures. Eye problems can come back. That's why your best defense against serious vision loss is to take control of your diabetes and get regular eye exams. It's also important to keep your blood pressure and cholesterol in a healthy range.

NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases