Diabetes Mellitus (cont.)

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What is diabetes?

Diabetes mellitus is a group of metabolic diseases characterized by high blood sugar (glucose) levels that result from defects in insulin secretion, or its action, or both. Diabetes mellitus, commonly referred to as diabetes (as it will be in this article) was first identified as a disease associated with "sweet urine," and excessive muscle loss in the ancient world. Elevated levels of blood glucose (hyperglycemia) lead to spillage of glucose into the urine, hence the term sweet urine.

Normally, blood glucose levels are tightly controlled by insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas. Insulin lowers the blood glucose level. When the blood glucose elevates (for example, after eating food), insulin is released from the pancreas to normalize the glucose level. In patients with diabetes, the absence of insufficient production of, or lack of response to insulin causes hyperglycemia. Diabetes is a chronic medical condition, meaning that although it can be controlled, it lasts a lifetime.

What is the impact of diabetes?

Over time, diabetes can lead to blindness, kidney failure, and nerve damage. These types of damage are the result of damage to small vessels, referred to as microvascular disease. Diabetes is also an important factor in accelerating the hardening and narrowing of the arteries (atherosclerosis), leading to strokes, coronary heart disease, and other large blood vessel diseases. This is referred to as macrovascular disease. Diabetes affects approximately 26 million people in the United States, while another 79 million have prediabetes. An estimated 7 million people in the United States have diabetes and don't even know it.

From an economic perspective, the total annual cost of diabetes in 2012 was estimated to be 245 billion dollars in the United States. This included 116 billion in direct medical costs (healthcare costs) for people with diabetes and another 69 billion in other costs due to disability, premature death, or work loss. Medical expenses for people with diabetes are over two times higher than those for people who do not have diabetes. Remember, these numbers reflect only the population in the United States. Globally, the statistics are staggering.

Diabetes was the 7th leading cause of death in the United States listed on death certificates in 2007.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/12/2014

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Diabetes - Symptoms Question: The symptoms of diabetes can vary greatly from patient to patient. What were your symptoms at the onset of your disease?
Diabetes - Causes Question: What was the cause of your diabetes (overweight, lack of physical activity, pregnancy, autoimmune)?
Diabetes - Test Question: What type of diabetes test do you use to check your blood sugar at home?
Diabetes - Acute Complication Question: What causes your blood sugar readings to spike, and what action do you take to lower them?

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