Diabetes mellitus is a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin or the cells in the body stop responding to the insulin that is produced. Four types of the disease include type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, monogenic diabetes and gestational diabetes.
About the Disease
To understand the disease, one needs to know the roles of the pancreas and insulin and the importance of glucose. Every cell in the human body requires energy to function and glucose is the primary source of energy. It is a simple sugar that results from the digestion of carbohydrates and circulates in the bloodstream as a ready source of energy.
Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas (an organ located behind the stomach). It bonds to the receptor sites on the outside of a cell acting as the key to allow glucose into the cell. When the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or the cells no longer respond to insulin, glucose remains in the blood rather than enter the cells.
Type 2 diabetes, the more common type, was formerly known as non-insulin dependent or adult onset diabetes. It can occur at any age, even during childhood, and usually develops slowly over time.
With type 2 diabetes, either the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or the cells resist insulin. As a result, glucose remains in the blood and can cause serious complications such as neurological damage, cardiovascular damage and renal failure. Some people can manage the disease with diet and exercise while others need medication and insulin to control elevated blood glucose levels.
Causes and Risk Factors
It is not known why the pancreas stops producing enough insulin or why the body becomes resistant to insulin. Researchers have identified factors that increase the risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
One primary risk factor is being overweight because more fatty tissue increases the cells’ resistance to insulin. Where the fat is stored makes a difference, fat stored in the abdomen increases the risk.