Diabetes – more formally known as Diabetes mellitus – is a disease that causes increased blood sugar levels for long periods of time. According to the latest figures, nearly 425 million adults have diabetes, with nearly half of them remaining undiagnosed. Diabetes is usually caused by the inability of the pancreas to produce enough insulin to allow the body to self-regulate its blood sugar levels. Another type of diabetes is caused by the body being unable to utilize the insulin that is produced. These are the commonly known Type 1 (or juvenile onset diabetes) and Type 2. While this is fairly common knowledge now, there are some things about diabetes that you might not know. So here are 5 diabetes facts that you might not know about this dangerous disease.
1. The History of Diabetes: It has been around as long as humans.
Diabetes is one of the oldest known diseases. The history of diabetes dates back to nearly 3500 years ago. An Egyptian manuscript from 1500 BCE mentions a disease that has many of the same symptoms as diabetes. At the same time in the Indus Valley, a disease called honey urine was noted, because the urine attracted ants.
2. How many types of diabetes are there?
While you may be familiar with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, you may not know that there are multiple other types of diabetes. Along with those, there is also a Type 3 that is used to describe diabetes that is a complication of Alzheimer’s disease where the brain shows insulin resistance, much like Type 2. Other types of diabetes also include gestational diabetes, where pregnant women aren’t able to produce sufficient insulin, and a genetic form of diabetes that can present at nearly any age.
3. Nobody knows exactly what causes diabetes.
People used to think that diabetes was caused by obesity or a poor diet. While these will exacerbate the onset of the disease, they are not the direct cause. Instead, most doctors now think that diabetes is genetic in nature. That doesn’t mean, however, that if you have the genetic trigger for diabetes that you’re guaranteed to get it. Type 2 diabetes, which is the most severe form, can often be delayed or prevented by exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet. In fact, a high amount of activity can reduce a person’s risk of diabetes by up to 28%.
4. Insulin is not the first option for treating diabetes.
When most people think of treating diabetes, they think of someone who has to inject insulin every day. That’s not true at all. When someone is first diagnosed with diabetes, the first course of treatment is usually medication. For Type 2 diabetes, medications such as Glimepiride (Amaryl) can help stimulate the pancreas into secreting more insulin. Other medications help your body utilize the insulin already being produced. When these are combined with a proper diet and exercise, many diabetes sufferers never have to see an insulin bottle.
5. All insulin is not created equally.
Insulin used to be taken from the pancreases of sheep, cows, or pigs. This insulin was then refined carefully for human use. However, in most parts of the world, this is no longer the case. Instead, biosynthetic insulin is used. This type of insulin is created in a lab using a synthetic gene that has been placed into a yeast or bacteria cell. Because it’s produced using the same gene that normally does the job in the human body, biosynthetic insulin is exactly the same as that produced by a human body.
Additionally, even then, insulin differs according to its duration, the time it takes to take effect, and how long it’s working its strongest. The types vary from rapid-acting, which lasts from 3 to 4 hours and takes effect within 10 minutes, to slow insulin, which takes 2 to 4 hours to take effect and lasts from 18 to 36 hours.
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