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Diabetes mellitus, or simply diabetes, is a group of metabolic diseases in which a person has high blood sugar, either because the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, or because cells do not respond to the insulin that is produced. This high blood sugar produces the classical symptoms of polyuria (frequent urination), polydipsia (increased thirst), and polyphagia (increased hunger).
There are three main types of diabetes mellitus (DM).
Other forms of diabetes mellitus include congenital diabetes, which is due to genetic defects of insulin secretion, cystic fibrosis-related diabetes, steroid diabetes induced by high doses of glucocorticoids, and several forms of monogenic diabetes.
Untreated, diabetes can cause many complications. Acute complications include diabetic ketoacidosis and nonketotic hyperosmolar coma. Serious long-term complications include cardiovascular disease, chronic renal failure, and diabetic retinopathy (retinal damage). Adequate treatment of diabetes is thus important, as well as blood pressure control and lifestyle factors such as stopping smoking and maintaining a healthy body weight.
All forms of diabetes have been treatable since insulin became available in 1921, and type 2 diabetes may be controlled with medications. Insulin and some oral medications can cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugars), which can be dangerous if severe. Both types 1 and 2 are chronic conditions that cannot be cured. Pancreas transplants have been tried with limited success in type 1 DM; gastric bypass surgery has been successful in many with morbid obesity and type 2 DM. Gestational diabetes usually resolves after delivery.
Diabetes mellitus is classified into four broad categories: type 1, type 2, gestational diabetes, and "other specific types". The "other specific types" are a collection of a few dozen individual causes. The term "diabetes", without qualification, usually refers to diabetes mellitus. The rare disease diabetes insipidus has similar symptoms to diabetes mellitus, but without disturbances in the sugar metabolism (insipidus means "without taste" in Latin) and does not involve the same disease mechanisms.
The term "type 1 diabetes" has replaced several former terms, including childhood-onset diabetes, juvenile diabetes, and insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM). Likewise, the term "type 2 diabetes" has replaced several former terms, including adult-onset diabetes, obesity-related diabetes, and noninsulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM). Beyond these two types, there is no agreed-upon standard nomenclature.
Type 1 diabetes mellitus is characterized by loss of the insulin-producing beta cells of the islets of Langerhans in the pancreas, leading to insulin deficiency. This type can be further classified as immune-mediated or idiopathic. The majority of type 1 diabetes is of the immune-mediated nature, in which beta cell loss is a T-cell-mediated autoimmune attack. There is no known preventive measure against type 1 diabetes, which causes approximately 10% of diabetes mellitus cases in North America and Europe. Most affected people are otherwise healthy and of a healthy weight when onset occurs. Sensitivity and responsiveness to insulin are usually normal, especially in the early stages. Type 1 diabetes can affect children or adults, but was traditionally termed "juvenile diabetes" because a majority of these diabetes cases were in children.
"Brittle" diabetes, also known as unstable diabetes or labile diabetes, is a term that was traditionally used to describe the dramatic and recurrent swings in glucose levels, often occurring for no apparent reason in insulin-dependent diabetes. This term, however, has no biologic basis and should not be used. There are many reasons for type 1 diabetes to be accompanied by irregular and unpredictable hyperglycemia, frequently with ketosis, and sometimes serious hypoglycemia, including an impaired counterregulatory response to hypoglycemia, occult infection, gastroparesis (which leads to erratic absorption of dietary carbohydrates), and endocrinopathies (e.g., Addison's disease). These phenomena are believed to occur no more frequently than in 1% to 2% of persons with type 1 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes mellitus is characterized by insulin resistance, which may be combined with relatively reduced insulin secretion. The defective responsiveness of body tissues to insulin is believed to involve the insulin receptor. However, the specific defects are not known. Diabetes mellitus cases due to a known defect are classified separately. Type 2 diabetes is the most common type.
In the early stage of type 2, the predominant abnormality is reduced insulin sensitivity. At this stage, hyperglycemia can be reversed by a variety of measures and medications that improve insulin sensitivity or reduce glucose production by the liver.
Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) resembles type 2 diabetes in several respects, involving a combination of relatively inadequate insulin secretion and responsiveness. It occurs in about 2–5% of all pregnancies and may improve or disappear after delivery. Gestational diabetes is fully treatable, but requires careful medical supervision throughout the pregnancy. About 20–50% of affected women develop type 2 diabetes later in life.
Though it may be transient, untreated gestational diabetes can damage the health of the fetus or mother. Risks to the baby include macrosomia (high birth weight), congenital cardiac and central nervous system anomalies, and skeletal muscle malformations. Increased fetal insulin may inhibit fetal surfactant production and cause respiratory distress syndrome. Hyperbilirubinemia may result from red blood cell destruction. In severe cases, perinatal death may occur, most commonly as a result of poor placental perfusion due to vascular impairment. Labor induction may be indicated with decreased placental function. A Caesarean section may be performed if there is marked fetal distress or an increased risk of injury associated with macrosomia, such as shoulder dystocia.
A 2008 study completed in the U.S. found the number of American women entering pregnancy with pre-existing diabetes is increasing. In fact, the rate of diabetes in expectant mothers had more than doubled from 1999 to 2005.This is particularly problematic as diabetes raises the risk of complications during pregnancy and increases the potential for the children of diabetic mothers to become diabetic in the future.
Prediabetes indicates a condition that occurs when a person's blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough for a diagnosis of type 2 DM. Many people destined to develop type 2 DM spend many years in a state of prediabetes which has been termed "America's largest healthcare epidemic.":10–11
Latent autoimmune diabetes of adults (LADA) is a condition in which type 1 DM develops in adults. Adults with LADA are frequently initially misdiagnosed as having type 2 DM, based on age rather than etiology.
Some cases of diabetes are caused by the body's tissue receptors not responding to insulin (even when insulin levels are normal, which is what separates it from type 2 diabetes); this form is very uncommon. Genetic mutations (autosomal or mitochondrial) can lead to defects in beta cell function. Abnormal insulin action may also have been genetically determined in some cases. Any disease that causes extensive damage to the pancreas may lead to diabetes (for example, chronic pancreatitis and cystic fibrosis). Diseases associated with excessive secretion of insulin-antagonistic hormones can cause diabetes (which is typically resolved once the hormone excess is removed). Many drugs impair insulin secretion and some toxins damage pancreatic beta cells. The ICD-10 (1992) diagnostic entity, malnutrition-related diabetes mellitus (MRDM or MMDM, ICD-10 code E12), was deprecated by the World Health Organization when the current taxonomy was introduced in 1999.
The classic symptoms of untreated diabetes are loss of weight, polyuria (frequent urination), polydipsia (increased thirst), and polyphagia (increased hunger). Symptoms may develop rapidly (weeks or months) in type 1 diabetes, while they usually develop much more slowly and may be subtle or absent in type 2 diabetes.
Prolonged high blood glucose can cause glucose absorption in the lens of the eye, which leads to changes in its shape, resulting in vision changes. Blurred vision is a common complaint leading to a diabetes diagnosis. A number of skin rashes that can occur in diabetes are collectively known as diabetic dermadromes.
People (usually with type 1 diabetes) may also present with diabetic ketoacidosis, a state of metabolic dysregulation characterized by the smell of acetone, a rapid, deep breathing known as Kussmaul breathing, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain, and altered states of consciousness.
A rare but equally severe possibility is hyperosmolar nonketotic state, which is more common in type 2 diabetes and is mainly the result of dehydration.
All forms of diabetes increase the risk of long-term complications. These typically develop after many years (10–20), but may be the first symptom in those who have otherwise not received a diagnosis before that time. The major long-term complications relate to damage to blood vessels. Diabetes doubles the risk of cardiovascular disease. The main "macrovascular" diseases (related to atherosclerosis of larger arteries) are coronary artery disease (angina and myocardial infarction), stroke, and peripheral vascular disease. About 75% of deaths in diabetics are due to coronary artery disease.
Diabetes also damages the capillaries (causes microangiopathy). Diabetic retinopathy, which affects blood vessel formation in the retina of the eye, can lead to visual symptoms including reduced vision and potentially blindness. Diabetic nephropathy, the impact of diabetes on the kidneys, can lead to scarring changes in the kidney tissue, loss of small or progressively larger amounts of protein in the urine, and eventually chronic kidney disease requiring dialysis.
Another risk is diabetic neuropathy, the impact of diabetes on the nervous system — most commonly causing numbness, tingling, and pain in the feet, and also increasing the risk of skin damage due to altered sensation. Together with vascular disease in the legs, neuropathy contributes to the risk of diabetes-related foot problems (such as diabetic foot ulcers) that can be difficult to treat and occasionally require amputation. Additionally, proximal diabetic neuropathy causes painful muscle wasting and weakness.
Several studies suggest a link between cognitive deficit and diabetes. Compared to those without diabetes, the research showed that those with the disease have a 1.2 to 1.5-fold greater rate of decline in cognitive function, and are at greater risk.
In the United States, there were approximately 675,000 diabetes-related emergency department (ED) visits in 2010 that involved neurological complications, 409,000 ED visits with kidney complications, and 186,000 ED visits with eye complications.