Nearly everyone knows at least one person who has diabetes. It can strike anyone from any walk of life – and it does. In fact, the number of people living with diabetes has jumped almost 50 percent in the last decade. According to a 2014 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 21 million people in the U.S. have diabetes. And that’s not even counting the roughly 8 million people who haven’t been diagnosed.
For a disease that affects as many as 29 million Americans, diabetes is largely misunderstood. That’s why we decided to break it down into simple terms. Read on learn what diabetes is and what causes this disease that touches so many people worldwide.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a long-term condition in which blood sugar levels in the body are consistently elevated. When we eat, our bodies turn food into glucose. At this point, the pancreas is supposed to release insulin, which allows our bodies to use the glucose for energy. In people who have diabetes, this system doesn’t work properly.Cancel
How do you get diabetes?
The cause of diabetes depends on whether a person has type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes.
- Type 1 diabetes
Often called “juvenile” diabetes, type 1 diabetes usually develops in children and teens. It is considered the more severe form of diabetes, as the body’s immune system attacks part of its own pancreas and insulin-producing cells. Without insulin, sugar builds up in the blood. If left untreated, this can cause damage to the organs of the body and even be fatal. Scientists are unsure of the exact cause of type 1 diabetes, but they do know that genes play a role, as do viral infections.
- Type 2 diabetes
The more common kind of diabetes is type 2 diabetes. It’s also called “adult onset” diabetes because it usually develops after the age of 35. However, a growing number of people are developing the disease earlier in life. Typically, type 2 diabetes is tied to people who are overweight and live a sedentary lifestyle. These people are able to produce some of their own insulin, but it’s often not enough to regulate the blood sugar levels in the body.
Researchers are still working on a cure for type 1 diabetes. Those with type 2 diabetes can work with their doctors to develop a treatment plan that focuses on diet and exercise.