Diabetes Mellitus (DM)

What is Diabetes Mellitus (DM)?

Diabetes Mellitus is a disease of the pancreas, which is located behind the stomach and which is responsible for producing the hormone insulin. Insulin assists the body with using food for energy.

Diabetes means that the pancreas is using the insulin incorrectly or is failing to produce enough insulin. Insulin works to deliver glucose into the cells to be burned up as energy. When there is an insufficient level of insulin glucose levels rise because the glucose cannot enter the bodies cells to be burned up fuel.

Diabetes is also referred to as hyperglycemia or high blood sugar. It is estimated that about 6 percent or 17 million Americans are dealing with diabetes mellitus. Diabetes is known to be the sixth leading cause of death within the United States and can cause blindness, nerve damage, kidney failure, and amputation of the lower extremities. Diabetes can also result in a higher risk for developing heart disease and strokes.

Diabetes or diabetes mellitus is a term that refers to a series of metabolic conditions that lead to hyperglycemia.

The common forms of diabetes are Type 1 (caused by the immune system that erroneously attacks the beta cells of the pancreas), Type 2 (when the body cannot use the insulin produced by the pancreas), Gestational Diabetes (which is temporary and manifest itself only during pregnancy) and LADA (Type 1.5) or latent autoimmune diabetes of adults (a form of late-onset of Type 1 diabetes that presents similarities with Type 2 diabetes).

What are the Symptoms of Diabetes Mellitus (DM)?

Common symptoms include: Frequent urination, fatigue, decreased appetite, unexplained weight loss, excessive hunger, extremely dry skin, sores that fail to heal quickly, sudden changes in vision, feeling tired all the time, tingling or numbness in the feet or hands, and an unusually high number of infections.

Diabetes Mellitus Causes

Diabetes Mellitus is the general name for three distinct types of diabetes commonly known as type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes. Type 1 diabetes which is also known as juvenile diabetes is a genetic condition that occurs when the immune system destroys the beta cells in the pancreas. These cells are essential for insulin production and without them, patients with type 1 diabetes cannot make their own insulin. Type 2 diabetes is typically associated with the patient’s lifestyle habits and is the most common form of diabetes in the United States. Although not always the case, obesity, poor diet and low activity are usually the causes of type 2 diabetes. In this form of diabetes patients do produce insulin, but not enough to meet the body’s demands.

Gestational diabetes only occurs during pregnancy and is caused when the increased hormones produced by the fetus’ placenta leads to excess sugar in the mother’s blood. If the mother’s pancreas cannot produce additional insulin to manage the increased sugar, this leads to gestational diabetes. This form of the diabetes is normally temporary and will end after the baby is born. However, women who are overweight prior to conceiving, have a family history of diabetes, have had gestational diabetes in previous pregnancies or already have high blood sugar levels are more likely to develop gestational diabetes. Additionally, women of African-American, Asian, Native American and Hispanic descent are more likely to be diagnosed with gestational diabetes.

How is Diabetes Mellitus (DM) Treated?

The condition is not reversible (with the exception of the gestational form which is only temporary) and require continuous monitoring and treatment of the symptoms.

Treatment includes

Maintaining normal glucose levels and controlling cholesterol levels and blood pressure. Patients must monitor their blood sugar levels daily, watch their diets, keep physically active, monitor oral medications, manage weight and stress, and self-administer insulin via pump or injection if required.

Juvenile-onset diabetes (Type 1) is a forms of DM that always requires insulin while symptoms of Type 2 diabetes can be controlled through diet and exercise. However, severe forms of Type 2 diabetes also require insulin injections if oral medication is not effective.

Diabetes Mellitus Prevention

Of all the forms of diabetes mellitus, type 1 diabetes is hereditary and cannot be prevented. However, complications can be prevented or reduced by patients regulating their blood sugar to within the target range and scheduling regular check-ups. Type 2 diabetes is a preventable disease. Often in these cases, patients are warned that they are “pre-diabetic” before they are fully diagnosed with diabetes. In these situations, a low-fat high fiber diet, 30 minutes of exercise a day and weight monitoring can help to prevent diabetes from occurring.

In gestational diabetes, the best form of prevention is to maintain a healthy diet and to regularly test with your obstetrician for the presence of excess sugar, either in your blood or urine. Typically, obstetricians will perform a blood sugar test within 24 to 28 weeks of gestation to determine how efficiently a pregnant woman’s body processes sugar. If a pregnant woman is diagnosed with gestational diabetes, her obstetrician will continue to track her blood sugar and weight gain, as well as recommend a balanced diet.