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Diabetes Mellitus

Diabetes mellitus is a group of metabolic disorders with one common symptom hyperglycemia. It is characterized by high blood sugar (glucose) levels, which result from defects in insulin secretion, or action, or both. Diabetes mellitus, commonly referred to as diabetes, means “sweet urine.” 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. When the blood glucose increases (for example, after eating food), insulin is released from the pancreas to normalize the glucose level. In patients with diabetes mellitus, the absence or insufficient production of insulin causes hyperglycemia. Diabetes mellitus is a chronic medical condition, means it can last a lifetime.

Impact of Diabetes

Diabetes mellitus can lead to blindness, kidney failure, and nerve damage. It is also an important factor in accelerating the hardening and narrowing of the arteries, leading to strokes, coronary heart diseases, and other blood vessel diseases. Diabetes mellitus affects 15 million people (about 8% of the population) in the United States. In addition, an estimated 12 million people in the United States have diabetes and don’t even know it.

Diabetes is the third leading cause of death in the United States after heart disease and cancer.

Causes of Diabetes Mellitus

Insufficient production of insulin, or production of defective insulin, or the inability of cells to use insulin leads to hyperglycemia and diabetes mellitus. It affects mostly the cells of muscle and fat tissues.

Glucose is a simple sugar found in food. Glucose is an essential nutrient that provides energy for the proper functioning of the body cells. After meals, food is digested in the stomach and the intestines. The glucose in digested food is absorbed by the intestinal cells into the bloodstream, and is carried by blood to all the cells in the body. However, glucose cannot enter the cells alone and needs insulin to aid in its transport into the cells. Without insulin, cells become starved of glucose energy despite the presence of abundant glucose in the blood. In certain types of diabetes mellitus, the cells’ inability to utilize glucose gives rise to the ironic situation of “starvation in the midst of plenty”. The abundant, unutilized glucose is wastefully excreted in the urine.

Insulin is a hormone that is produced by specialized cells of the pancreas. After a meal, the blood glucose level rises. In response to the increased glucose level, the pancreas normally releases insulin into the bloodstream to help glucose enter the cells and lower blood glucose levels. In patients with diabetes mellitus, the insulin is either missing, or insulin is relatively insufficient for the body’s needs. Both leading to hyperglycemia.

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