Diabetes mellitus refers to the chronic disease characterized by inability of the body to produce or make effective use of insulin, a hormone that is essential in carbohydrate metabolism, particularly the control of glucose in the blood. There are three types of Diabetes: 1) Insulin-dependent Diabetes mellitus (IDDM) or Type 1; 2) Non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) or Type 2; and 3) Gestational Diabetes (Gatchel and Oordt, 2003, pp. 40-41).
IDDM is caused by insufficient production of insulin due to the destruction of pancreatic islet beta cells, the type of cell which is responsible for the production and release of insulin. No single factor can be said to cause such destruction. Factors that are said to likely contribute to IDDM include genetics, nutrition, viral infections, chemicals, and in utero environment. This type of diabetes usually sets in during youth between ages 11 to 14 (p.41).
NIDDM is more common than IDDM. It is caused not by the destruction of beta cells but by a combination of beta cell dysfunction and obesity-induced insulin-resistance. It usually occurs among adults when adipose tissues accumulate to a point when it already blocks the contact between insulin and insulin receptors (p. 41).
Gestational diabetes happens to less than 5% of pregnant women and is suspected to be caused by hormonal changes during pregnancy. This type of diabetes usually disappears after pregnancy but increases the risk of the mother of subsequently developing NIDDM (p. 41).
While diabetes is divided into three types, the symptoms that characterize each are similar. Glucose levels in all types are, needless to say, higher than normal, although each type may have different diagnostic values. Unsurprisingly, the assessment method generally used both in diagnosing and determining the status of the patient is biochemical, that is, by using standard tests and laboratory values to determine the existence or status of the illness. Non-gestational diabetes requires at least 126 mg/dl fasting plasma glucose level or at least 200 mg/dl random plasma glucose level.
Aside from abnormal glucose levels, people with diabetes generally experience polyuria, polydipsia, ketonuria, weight loss (IDDM), weight gain (NIDDM), and if the condition remains unmanaged or mismanaged, system complications including heart disease, renal failure, blindness, diabetic neuropathy and even death (p. 41).
Lowering blood-glucose levels to normal or near normal is the primary goal of treatment for diabetes. Common treatment methods include: 1) self-monitoring of blood glucose; 2) nutrition management; 3) regular exercise; 4) insulin therapy; 5) continuous education and counseling (pp. 41-44).