Diabetes means that the body has an inability to produce or use insulin. Insulin is an essential hormone that lets you use glucose as energy. Without it, glucose will build up in your blood and cause untold amounts of damage to your organs – especially your kidneys, hearts, nerves, and eyes.
There are three types of diabetes: Type I, Type II, and Gestational Diabetes.
Type I Diabetes
Type I used to be called Juvenile Diabetes, because it was thought that only children got it. However, the truth is, anyone can develop Type I diabetes. There are two main risk factors for developing Type I diabetes (which means your body is no longer producing any insulin and never will produce insulin on its own):
* Genetics and family history – If you have a mom, dad, sister, or brother with Type 1 diabetes, then you should get regularly screened for diabetes.
* Pancreatic disease, infection or illness – There are many different types of illnesses and diseases that can damage the pancreas, causing Type 1 diabetes. If you have any of these illnesses it’s important to get regular screenings.
In these cases there isn’t much you can do other than take care of yourself, eat right, and get regular screenings.
Type II Diabetes
Type II Diabetes means that your body still produces insulin but for whatever reason you cannot make use of it due to inadequate production or some other factor. The major risk factors for Type II diabetes are:
* Obesity – If you are even a little bit overweight, your risk factor for Type II diabetes goes up. However, if you are actually obese you’re at an even higher risk and it’s probably a question of when, not if, you will develop Type II diabetes.
* Sedentary – If you don’t exercise for at least one hour three times a week, you are sedentary and your risk factor for Type II diabetes goes up. If you have a job that requires you to sit more than four hours a day and you don’t make a special effort to exercise each day, you are also sedentary.
* Genetics – If you have a family history of diabetes you’re much more likely to develop it as well. This is especially true with first-degree relatives like a mom or dad, brother or sister.
* Glucose intolerance – This is really pre-diabetes. It simply means that you’re at a high risk of developing actual diabetes due to the fact that you already have higher blood sugar levels than is normal.
* Insulin resistance – If you have cells that resist the insulin your body is pumping out, keeping your blood sugar high, it can make your pancreas work too hard trying to clear the body of sugar.
* Ethnicity – Hispanics, African Americans, Native Americans, Asians, Pacific Islanders, and Alaska natives all have a higher incident of Type II diabetes.
* Age – Even age can play a part, especially if you have any of the other risk factors. You can develop Type II diabetes at any age, but if you’re over the age of 45 you’re more likely to develop it if you have any of the other risk factors.
Gestational diabetes occurs in a pregnant woman who previously had no symptoms or diagnosis of diabetes. While this can be a scary situation for the mother-to-be, it’s not completely uncommon since about 4 percent of all pregnant women will end up having gestational diabetes.
All women who are pregnant end up with higher blood sugar and hormonal changes, and some will end up with hormonal changes that push their blood sugar into the realm of diabetes. If your body cannot produce enough insulin to help your body turn glucose into energy, your blood sugar will test high.
There really is no one cause, but there are indications that mothers who are overweight, suffered from polycystic ovarian disease, or have family history of diabetes are at a higher risk of developing GD.
Gestational diabetes often presents with no symptoms. It’s one reason regular screenings are done throughout pregnancy. Every time you go to your doctor for a check-up they’ll do a finger prick, and you’ll also have a glucose tolerance test at least once during your pregnancy to rule out issues.
Testing and Diagnosis
The dreaded glucose tolerance test during pregnancy is where you drink a disgusting drink that is just sugar. You can sometimes pick the flavors but it is really terrible tasting. Then you just sit and wait for about an hour. You get a finger prick or a blood draw and you’re all done. This test is usually done between the 24th and 28th week of pregnancy. If your test comes back questionable, you will be sent to do a longer test over a period of hours.
This is a condition in which women without previously diagnosed diabetes show high blood glucose levels during pregnancy. The main risk factors are:
* Maternal obesity – It’s important for any woman planning pregnancy to try to get their BMI normal through diet and exercise.
* Genetics – If Mom, Dad, brothers or sisters have diabetes or had GD during pregnancy you’re at a higher risk.
* Member of a high-risk group – The same high-risk group mentioned for Type II diabetes is also at a greater risk for developing GD.
* Large birth weight baby – Having a baby more than 9 lbs predisposes you to a higher probability of having GD.
* Having GD in prior pregnancy – If you had it before, you may develop it again.
* Polyhydramnios – If you have too much amniotic fluid, you are at a higher risk of developing GD.
Regardless of your risk factors, make going to the doctor for a yearly exam, including a blood sugar check, part of your regular health monitoring. Catching problems earlier rather than later can save you a lot of problems, since having diabetes can contribute to a whole host of other health issues.
Treatment of gestational diabetes is much like treatment for any kind of diabetes. More tests will be done to determine if you need insulin or if you can get by with just a pill, or diet or a combination of all. In most cases you’ll be given a type of insulin either through injection or a pill. You’ll also be sent to a nutritionist to help you know what to eat, as well as be told to schedule in regular exercise that is safe for your baby.
It’s important that you don’t worry too much. With proper treatment you can avoid a lot of the complications associated with gestational diabetes and deliver a healthy normal baby. If the baby is super large, which can happen if the mother has GD, you may need to have a cesarean section to avoid further complications.
Each case is specific in the treatment based on the results of the glucose and other tests. The important thing is to do what your doctor and nutritionist tell you in this matter.