Breaking Down Diabetes

Breaking Down Diabetes

According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 100 million Americans have diabetes or prediabetes. While diabetes is a well-known condition throughout the country, many people aren't as familiar with the different types and causes. We asked Amwell registered dietitian, Margaret Apura, to answer some common questions about diabetes.

What is the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body (specifically, the pancreas) does not make insulin, or does not make enough insulin. The reason this can become problematic is because insulin is responsible for transferring glucose from your blood into your cells for energy. If you have no insulin, that sugar is going to stay in your blood and cause your blood sugar level to rise. People with type 1 diabetes take insulin to prevent this from happening. Only about 5% of people with diabetes have type 1 and it is most common in children and young adults. 

Type 2 diabetes, occurs when the cells don't respond normally to insulin, which causes the pancreas to create more. People with type 2 diabetes may have to take medication or insulin, but in some cases it can be controlled by a healthy diet alone. 95% of people with diabetes have type 2 and it is most common in older adults. 

What causes type 1 and type 2 diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes is a cause by genetics and is an autoimmune disease, meaning it occurs when the immune system attacks healthy cells in the body (specifically, the pancreas). Type 2 diabetes is caused by a combination of genetic and lifestyle factors. While type 1 diabetes is unpreventable and caused primarily by genetics and exposure to certain viruses, type 2 diabetes can sometimes be prevented by a change in lifestyle and better eating habits.

What is prediabetes?

Prediabetes occurs when blood sugar is elevated, but not enough for it to be classified as type 2 diabetes. People with prediabetes can develop type 2 diabetes if they don’t make positive dietary and lifestyle adjustments. 84% of people with prediabetes don't know they have it, which is why it's important to be aware of your blood pressure elevation. 

How do I know if I have diabetes?

People with diabetes may experience the following symptoms:

  • Extreme thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Extreme fatigue or tiredness
  • Blurry vision
  • Weight loss
  • Tingling/numbness in hands/feet
  • Frequent infections
  • Cuts/bruises that heal slowly

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, doctors on Amwell can help identify next steps for care. The earlier diabetes is diagnosed and treated, the more likely you are to be able to control and manage the condition.

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