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What is diabetes?

Normally, the glucose we eat in the form of sugars and starches provides energy for our muscles and our brain cells. The glucose in our blood stream relies on the hormone insulin (produced in the pancreas) to get into the cells, where it can be utilized by the body. If the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, or if the insulin is being absorbed by abdominal fat cells (insulin resistance), then blood sugars levels will rise. By definition, diabetes is indicated by a fasting blood sugar (FBS) level greater than 126. The normal range is an FBS level of less than 100. Those with an FBS level of 100-126 are said to have “impaired fasting glucose,” a precursor to diabetes.

What are the symptoms of diabetes?

When blood sugars rise, the body tries to get rid of the excess sugar by diluting it. Patients will note increased thirst and urination. Typically, the first sign of diabetes is increased urination at night. Fatigue, blurred vision or increased appetite with weight loss can also occur.

What are the different types of diabetes?

In some instances, the pancreas will stop working, and the individual will have to rely on insulin shots to regulate their glucose levels. This is known as type 1 diabetes. Much more common in our society is type 2 diabetes, which is generally caused by obesity. Being overweight makes the pancreas work harder until it can no longer keep up with the increased demand, resulting in slowly rising blood sugars. Generally, type 2 diabetes is controlled by weight loss, diet and oral medications, though some type 2 diabetics will require insulin for blood sugar control.

What are the risks and complications of diabetes?

Unfortunately, uncontrolled diabetes can have severe consequences. Diabetes is the third leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer. Diabetics are at increased risk for heart attacks and strokes. The small blood vessels in the eyes, kidneys and nerves can also be damaged, leading to retinopathy, nephropathy and diabetic neuropathy.

What types of studies are available for diabetics at Baptist Health Center for Clinical Research?

Exciting new treatments are being developed for diabetes and for the symptoms of diabetic neuropathy (burning nerve pain, tingling, numbness or weakness, usually starting in the feet and legs). The highly effective injectable diabetes medication Byetta (exenatide) was studied here at Baptist Health Center for Clinical Research, as was the new oral medication Januvia (sitagliptin). We are expecting to do more studies for similar oral medications. For diabetic neuropathy, we have conducted several studies, including a new medication that not only treats the nerve pain of neuropathy, but also actually helps to regenerate small nerve fibers.

For more information on diabetes:

Mayo Clinic: Diabetes
Joslin Diabetes Center