What is type 2 diabetes? Is it really that different from type 1? How do you become diabetic? These are good questions.
Since we learned that diabetes is not a single disease, doctors have been trying to define the difference.
The way you became diabetic defines what kind you have.
If your pancreas cannot make insulin because it was damaged by viral illness or an autoimmune disease, type 1 diabetes is the result.
The symptoms show up fast in children, but if type 1 appears in an adult those symptoms are slow.
Adults can lose their beta cells so slowly that they look like type 2 diabetics for a while.
But the result is the same: high blood sugar. A type 1 diabetic must take insulin several times a day or slip into diabetic coma.
The modern insulin pump is the best thing for type 1 until an artificial pancreas becomes a reality.
Type 2 diabetes is a slow onset and chronic condition that creeps up on you silently.
Over time your muscle cells grow more and more resistant to the insulin your pancreas is making, causing sugar and insulin levels to build up in your blood.
Hyperglycemia and hyperinsulinemia are damaging your body, but you remain unaware unless you get your blood sugar levels tested.
For type 1 it is either an immune disorder or viral disease that destroys beta cells. But type 2 is a lifestyle disease.
The strong link between type 2 diabetes and obesity made researches look for the reason there, and they thought they had found it.
Fat, especially internal fat built up around organs like the pancreas and liver, inhibits the manufacture of insulin and the ability of the cells to use insulin.
If cells do not accept insulin's help, they cannot use the sugar that surrounds them, because insulin is the hormone that carries sugar into cells.
Your starving cells send out a distress call, and you feel fatigue even though you are eating enough. Your liver answers by sending more sugar into your bloodstream. This only makes matters worse.
That is one reason that losing weight helps lighten the burden on your sugar-hungry cells. It is a fact that fatty tissue is resistant to insulin.
As researchers zero in on why some people have more internal fat stores than others, the question of what is type 2 diabetes might come closer to an answer, and a cure.
One problem with finding an answer to the question of what is type 2 diabetes is that doctors do not know why every obese person is not a type 2 diabetic. Type 2 diabetes can develop in someone who is mildly overweight too.
What is the common factor? Or is it a combination of things going wrong?
Even 2,000 years ago doctors knew that diabetes went along with low activity level and being overweight.
In the early 1900s a doctor discovered that the islets of Langerhans in the pancreas make the hormone for sugar metabolism.
Then came the discovery of insulin in the 1920s. In 1935 diabetes was split into type 1 and type 2.
Type 2 was called sugar diabetes, non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM), and over-40s diabetes because it developed in older people.
They called type 1 juvenile diabetes because it was found in children. It seemed that things were getting clearer.
But now the question of what is type 2 diabetes has become muddied by a new problem.
Type 2 diabetes is showing up in children as young as 2 years old, and some children are showing symptoms of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes at the same time.
Some doctors think there is a type 3 or even type 4.
World wide type 2 diabetes is growing by leaps and bounds in spite of advances in care.
Single use syringes were invented in 1961. Glucose monitors were invented in 1969.
In 1988 the metabolic syndrome was identified, and all that time new medications were being approved to help treat type 2.
Artificial sweeteners have grown in popularity all over the world without stopping the growth of obesity.
The number of new cases of diabetes doubled in the last 10 years, and over 90% of those cases are type 2 diabetics.
This is not just in the United States. England and Scotland are worried because of the same increase and the health care costs.
It is being discussed in third world countries where there is not much health care, not as a money drain but as a cost in lives.
Diabetes is growing at an alarming rate in Bangladesh, one of the poorest countries in the world.
The common denominator seems to be the change from traditional foods to our Western diet.
Your type 2 diabetes is a personal issue. What can you do about it? The answer is still the same.
Get moving, become physically active in as
many ways as you can think of, and cut back on the
foods that are a huge part of the Western diet.
Make sugary and processed carbohydrates a tiny portion of your diet or cut them out completely.
Eat most of your calories in the high fiber categories of every food group. You will change, not overnight, but it will happen.
While researchers are trying stem cells from patient bone marrow, which shows promise but is very expensive, you can be working toward your own diabetic cure.
question of what is type 2 diabetes will be answered in your own case. "It is not the end of my life because I can change."