Diabetes: Types, Causes, and Symptoms


Diabetes: Types, Causes, and Symptoms

Diabetes mellitus is a term covering a group of diseases that affect your body’s use of glucose, which is the simple sugar it metabolizes for energy.

It affects around 12.4% of the adult population in Nevada, and while each type of diabetes has its own causes and treatments, they all have one thing in common: they can lead to dangerously high blood sugar levels and serious health risks.

Our physicians and specialists conveniently located around Southern Nevada are prepared to provide you with the guidance you need to help manage the effects of diabetes.

Diabetes in Nevada

In 2016, the prevalence of Diabetes mellitus in the state of Nevada among adults aged 18 years or older was 10.1%. That’s approximately 204,000 Nevadans above the age of 18 with diabetes mellitus. This is based on statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The high prevalence of diabetes mellitus results in a high economic burden for our state. For the year 2013, Nevada’s total medical cost attributable to diabetes was $3,223.1 million. This means the average cost per person with diabetes in our state was $15,657.

Our specialists at Intermountain Health Endocrinology understand both the economic burden and the health complications that affect our patients with poorly controlled diabetes mellitus and use that knowledge as a foundation to guide personalized treatment strategies.

What are the types of diabetes?

The two most common types of diabetes include:

Type 1 Diabetes

Often called childhood diabetes, type 1 diabetes usually appears during childhood or the teen years, though it can occur at any age. With this diabetes type, the body does not produce the sugar-managing hormone insulin at all, which means insulin must be taken daily for survival. Symptoms of type 1 diabetes include extreme thirst, frequent urination, frequent hunger, unexplained weight loss and fatigue.

Type 2 Diabetes

The most common form of diabetes is type 2, which usually affects adults who are past age 40. However, it is occurring with increasing frequency in younger people, with studies indicating the possibility of an up to 178% increase between 2010 – 2050 in those under 20 years of age. While people with type 2 diabetes do produce insulin, it isn’t enough to control their blood sugar. Symptoms of type 2 diabetes may include frequent infections, fatigue, blurred vision and darkened skin areas around the neck and armpits.

What are diabetes symptoms?

While diabetes types 1 and 2 may occur for different reasons, they share some common symptoms. These include an inability to fight infection, increased thirst, frequent urination, extreme hunger, fatigue and unexplained weight loss. However, symptoms develop slowly and may not be apparent for years despite the presence of the disease.

Ketones, which are a byproduct of muscle breakdown, may also appear in the urine. This is because muscle and fat are metabolized for energy when there is not enough insulin available to break down blood sugars.

What are the causes of diabetes?

While the specific reasons are yet unknown, it is understood that the immune system of those with type 1 diabetes attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas. When this happens, the body has no way of utilizing its supply of glucose in the blood. Since glucose is continuously sent to the blood as energy, a lack of insulin causes glucose to accumulate to the point levels become dangerously high.

Possible reasons for this may be:

  • Genetic makeup
  • Environmental factors
  • Certain viruses

However, excess weight does not appear to be a factor in type 1 diabetes.

With type 2 diabetes, the body either becomes resistant to insulin or the pancreas can’t produce enough of it. While reasons for this have not yet been specified, there is strong evidence that obesity, poor diet, and a sedentary lifestyle are contributing factors.

The distribution of body fat may also be a factor in the onset of type 2 diabetes since those with excess belly fat have higher occurrences of it.

The disease typically starts with insulin resistance, which is when the body’s cells can no longer use insulin efficiently. This causes the pancreas to produce more insulin in response to extra glucose in the blood to the point it becomes overwhelmed and can no longer keep up with the demand.

Other factors may include:

  • Genetics
  • A family history of obesity
  • Poor diet
  • Age
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome
  • Gestational diabetes sufferers or those bearing children more than 9 pounds in weight also have increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes

What is gestational diabetes?

Gestational diabetes can occur during pregnancy as a result of hormonal changes. These changes happen late in all pregnancies when hormones produced in the placenta cause insulin resistance.

While most women can produce enough insulin to overcome this, not all can, which then leads to gestational diabetes. Other factors that may add to the risk are weight gain, family history, and age.

What are the risks and complications?

Much like type 2 diabetes, extra weight and poor diet may contribute to the onset of gestational diabetes. Genetics, family history and becoming pregnant after age 25 may also increase the risk.

Also, much like type 2 diabetes, complications from gestational diabetes are slow to develop and worsen as the disease progresses. This can lead to disability, death and other serious conditions, including:

  • Nerve damage
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Blindness
  • Loss of limb
  • Increased risk of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease
  • High risk of infection

Other risks to the baby include:

  • Excessive growth due to the baby’s increased insulin production in response to the mother’s heightened glucose levels
  • Low blood sugar
  • Increased risk for type 2 diabetes later in life

And for the mother:

  • Preeclampsia, which is characterized by protein in the urine, high blood pressure and swelling of the legs and feet
  • Increased risk of gestational and type 2 diabetes

How can I sustain a good diabetic diet?

With type 2 and gestational diabetes, prevention is key. This means adhering to a diet low in saturated fats and other calorie-dense components while remaining high in fiber-foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. Since weight and blood glucose are critical factors, avoiding sugars and other simple carbohydrates is important in diabetes prevention.

Doing so will help you avoid the increased risk for cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, loss of limb, cancer, and death that go along with diabetes.

Speak to us about diabetes prevention and management

Our trained and expert specialists offer the care you need to help manage and prevent diabetes. We understand the daily obstacles people with diabetes face and help ensure our patients have all the necessary tools and education to minimize pain and discomfort while managing their condition.

Part of being well is being heard.