Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin, a hormone necessary to convert sugar, starches, and other foods into the energy needed for daily life.  In the San Luis Valley, we have a significantly higher death rate of diabetes than the rest of Colorado.

Fortunately, you're probably reading this because you are ready to take action.  The best place to begin to to develop an understanding of the main types of diabetes, as well as causes and symptoms.

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is an immune disorder in which the body attacks and destroys insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. As a result, the body cannot produce insulin and glucose stays in the blood, where it damages all the organ systems.

Because people with type 1 diabetes must take insulin in order to survive – and because it often strikes children - this form of the disease is commonly referred to as insulin-dependent or juvenile-onset diabetes.

Researchers have identified 18 different genes that relate to type 1 diabetes.  However, besides genetics, the following factors are also believed to increase the risk of developing type 1 diabetes:

  • Ethnicity: Caucasians have the highest rate of type 1 diabetes.
  • Climate: Type 1 diabetes occurs more often during winter than summer. In addition, type 1 diabetes is more common in cold climates.
  • Childhood Diet: Type 1 diabetes is less frequently found in people who were breastfed as a child. Introducing solid foods at later ages also appears to reduce the likelihood that a child will develop type 1 diabetes.
  • Autoantibodies: The majority of people with type 1 diabetes had specific autoantibodies in their blood for many years prior to developing the disease.
  • Respiratory infection: One study indicated that a respiratory infection during a child’s first year may offer protection against type 1 diabetes.

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is a disorder in which either the body does not produce enough insulin, or the cells ignore the insulin. Similar to type 1 diabetes, type 2 causes a build-up of glucose in the blood which damages the body’s organ systems. This form of the disease is commonly referred to as adult-onset diabetes.

Even though, like type 1 diabetes, family history of diabetes is a strong risk factors, lifestyle choices play an important role.  The following are risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes:

  • consuming diets high in fat, with few complex carbohydrates and fiber, accompanied by little exercise contribute to the development of diabetes.
  • Ethnicity: African Americans, Hispanics and Pima Indians are the ethnic groups with the highest risk of type 2 diabetes in the U.S.

Symptoms of Diabetes

The symptoms of both types of diabetes are similar.  The most common are:

  • Extreme thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Lethargy / drowsiness
  • Breath odor (fruity, sweet or wine-like)
  • Sugar in urine
  • Sudden vision changes, blurred vision
  • Increased appetite, constant hunger
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Heavy, labored breathing
  • Vomiting, often mistaken for a case of gastroenteritis
  • Stupor / unconsciousness (diabetic ketoacidosis – DKA)

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