Diabetes: Part 1/2

I thought it would be good to do a few posts about the more common medical conditions. Since I’ll be highlighting Lillian’s novel on Friday, I thought I’d cover the basics of diabetes and then emergency care of the diabetic patient.
There are three major forms of diabetes. Type I, Type II and gestational diabetes.
Type I: This type of diabetes is caused from an autoimmune reaction where the body turns on itself and destroys, in this case, the insulin producing cells in the pancreas. As a result, the person can no longer manufacture insulin. Its onset is usually young children.
Type II: This type of diabetes is the most common form of diabetes in our society. This is a condition where the body produces enough insulin, but the cells are resistant to it.
Gestational Diabetes: Occurs during pregnancy. Generally resolves after the infant is delivered.
When thinking about diabetes, the most important thing to understand is the role of insulin. Insulin is produced by the pancreas. It is a transport agent. It moves sugar (glucose) from outside the cell to inside the cell. Every cell in your body requires glucose to function. It is the primary energy source.
What happens when sugar is not transported inside the cell? First thing that happens is that sugar builds up in the blood stream because it has nowhere else to go. This leads to an elevated blood sugar in the blood stream. This is something we can measure. Normal blood sugar is roughly between 60-120.
When the cells are starved of sugar, the body begins to break down other sources for energy. In this case, fat and muscle. The breakdown of these tissues leads to an increase of acids in the body. The by-product of this process is ketones. You may have heard the term diabetic ketoacidosis.
Now, I need you to think back to basic biology and the process called osmosis. This is where cells try to equalize particles between barriers and they do this by moving fluid. When the sugar levels are high in the blood, the body wants to equalize that out. It does so by craving more water. This is why people with a high blood sugar have increased thirst and increased urination. Also, because the cells are starved for sugar, the patient will actually lose weight.
Your body also has a certain threshold for sugar. Once this level is surpassed, glucose begins to show up in places it wouldn’t normally be. One place we check is the urine. What will also show up in the urine are those ketones that have built up because of the body’s alternative processes for finding energy.
Have you had a character suffering from diabetes?

Next post: Emergency Treatment of Diabetes.
For further information of diabetes, check out these resources:
  1. http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/overview/
  2. http://ndep.nih.gov/media/Youth_Tips_Diabetes.pdf
  3. http://www.diabeteswellness.net/Portals/0/files/DRWFUSdiabetes.pdf

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