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Diabetes is a serious medical condition that affects how the body processes and controls the amount of sugar in the bloodstream. When a healthy person eats, food is digested and broken down into sugar which is passed into the bloodstream. An organ called the pancreas creates insulin which is a chemical that helps move sugar (also called glucose) out of the blood and into the cells of the body where it is used for energy.
In a person with diabetes, there either is not enough insulin to move all the glucose out of the blood, or the cells of the body become resistant to the insulin which prevents the glucose from being used for energy. Diabetes affects more than 16 million Americans. Studies show gender is not a significant risk factor in developing diabetes. The ratio of men to women with diabetes varies depending on many factors including age and type of diabetes.
• Type 1 – The body produces little or no insulin. This form of the disease is usually diagnosed in children but may also be discovered in adults. Daily testing and insulin injections are needed to help the body regulate sugar levels.
• Type 2 – The pancreas does not produce enough insulin or the cells are resistant to the insulin so it does not work correctly. Often, insulin resistance means the body needs more insulin than normal to the degree that the pancreas cannot keep up with the demand. People who are very overweight or obese are at higher risk of developing this type of diabetes because their bodies need more insulin.
This third type of diabetes is only seen in women who are pregnant. It typically develops around the 24th week of pregnancy. Pregnancy hormones can interfere with insulin and keep it from working correctly, which can cause high sugar levels in the woman’s blood. Because gestational diabetes usually starts later in pregnancy, it does not typically cause defects in the baby.