Diabetes - What Is It?

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Diabetes - What Is It?
Diabetes - What Is It?

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Video: Diabetes: What Is It? 2023, January
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Diabetes: what is it?

Diabetes mellitus is a group of metabolic diseases whose common finding is a chronically elevated blood sugar level. Around 600,000 people in Austria suffer from diabetes.

Over 90 percent of all people with diabetes are affected by type 2 diabetes, a disease that usually develops in adulthood, but which is increasingly being diagnosed in young people. Type 2 diabetes has partly genetic causes and often arises as a side effect of overweight and obesity (obesity).

Type 1 diabetes, which is much less common, usually occurs in childhood or adolescence and develops as a result of an autoimmune reaction.

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  • How does the sugar metabolism work?
  • How does diabetes develop?
  • What types of diabetes are there?
  • Which secondary diseases can occur?

How does the sugar metabolism work?

Graphic type 2 diabetes development © rob 3000

All cells in the body need sugar (simple sugar or glucose) in order to function properly; it provides the muscles and organs with energy for their work. Glucose is absorbed from food in the intestine and from there enters the blood. The blood sugar level rises. The sugar is distributed to the cells via the bloodstream. So that the cells can utilize the sugar and convert it into energy, it must first be absorbed into the cells. The body's own hormone insulin is responsible for this: Among other things, it ensures that the sweet fuel from the bloodstream reaches the body cells and is processed there. So insulin lowers the blood sugar level and controls the sugar metabolism of the cells.

How does diabetes develop?

Insulin is normally produced by the pancreas. From there it is released into the blood and can fulfill its vital tasks.

In diabetes mellitus, the body either cannot produce enough insulin (type 1 diabetes) or it cannot use the insulin appropriately (type 2 diabetes). As a result, the sugar ingested with food cannot be sufficiently transported from the blood to the cells. There is always too much glucose left in the blood (hyperglycaemia), and at the same time the sugar utilization of the cells is disturbed.

Diabetes mellitus develops slowly, often over years. Usually several disorders play together, some of which are inherited by those affected and / or acquired in the course of life. Different causes can lead to the development of different forms of diabetes.

What types of diabetes are there?

Type 1 diabetes

People with the rarer type 1 diabetes suffer from an autoimmune disease which means that the pancreas cannot produce enough or no insulin at all. In those affected, the beta cells of the pancreas, which are responsible for insulin production, are destroyed by the body's own defense cells or autoantibodies (antibodies directed against the body's own structures). This leads to an increasing insulin deficiency over time.

The autoimmune disease can presumably be triggered by virus infections, but genetic predisposition also plays a role in the development of type 1 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes

In people with the much more common type 2 diabetes, the pancreas initially produces enough insulin, but it cannot work properly on the cells. With this type of disease, the body cells become increasingly insensitive to insulin and can no longer properly absorb glucose (this is known as insulin resistance). As a result, more sugar remains in the blood, whereupon the pancreas also produces correspondingly more insulin. However, it only manages this for a limited time: If it exhausts itself, it comes to insulin deficiency and the development of permanently high blood sugar levels.

In type 2 diabetes, lifestyle habits play an important role, because obesity, an unhealthy diet and insufficient exercise increase the risk of disease and can lead to diabetes in genetically predisposed people.

Other forms of diabetes

In addition to the two main forms of type 1 and type 2 diabetes, other types of diabetes mellitus are differentiated according to their causes. These include: genetic defects in the beta cells of the pancreas, genetic defects in the action of insulin, diseases of the pancreas, hormonal diseases, infections or diabetes caused by drugs or chemicals (e.g. alcohol). Gestational diabetes is a separate form of diabetes.

Which secondary diseases can occur?

In diabetics, chronic excess blood sugar increases the risk that deposits will form in the blood vessels. This can lead to vascular diseases - such as coronary artery disease, heart attack, stroke, diseases of the retina, kidney disease or diabetic foot syndrome. Diabetes is also associated with an increased risk of dementia (loss of mental performance).

Further information can be found under: Diabetic complications.

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