Approximately 20 million men and women in the United States suffer from diabetes, a life-long disorder for which no cure currently exists. The term diabetes refers to the body's decreased ability to use insulin or an insulin deficiency. Diabetes treatment may involve medication, exercise, diet changes, or a combination of all three.
Type II--adult onset--diabetes, is by far the most common type of the disorder, accounting for over 90 percent of all cases. With type II diabetes, the body's cells do not respond appropriately to insulin, which results in high levels of sugar in the blood. Until recently, type II diabetes was most often seen in those over age 45; however, more and more new cases are being diagnosed each year in those under thirty years of age. The reason for this is not yet known, although certain medical professionals are of the opinion that such cases are linked to an unhealthy diet that is high in starch and sugar.
The treatment of type II diabetes focuses on lifestyle and diet changes, although medication is often necessary as well. A diet that encourages weight loss is essential for overweight diabetics and although some controversy exists regarding which is the healthiest eating plan, evidence suggests that a low glycemic index diet is helpful in keeping one's blood sugar at a stable level. Exercise is also vitally important for type II diabetics. During aerobic activity, glucose must be absorbed by the patient's muscles at a higher than normal rate, which subsequently lowers sugar levels in the patient's blood.
Type II diabetes is also treated with a vast array of anti-diabetic drugs. Such medications are usually taken orally; however, in some cases, the patient may require insulin as well. A medication regimen is typically created based on each patient's specific needs and may include a combination of various drugs.
Some of the more common oral medications used for diabetics with this type are meglitinides and sulfonylureas, which stimulate the pancreas to produce more insulin. In addition, a doctor may prescribe alpha-glucosidase inhibitors, which slow the body's absorption of starch, thus helping to stabilize blood glucose levels. Biguanides—drugs that decrease the liver's production of glucose—may also be prescribed in combination with the aforementioned oral medications or with insulin.
Type I diabetes is much less common than type II diabetes and usually affects children under the age of 12. The disease can also occur in adults; however, it is rarely diagnosed in individuals over 40 years of age. Type I diabetes is associated with a deficiency of insulin that occurs when, for reasons unknown to doctors, the pancreatic cells cease to produce insulin in appropriate quantities, thus creating high glucose blood levels.
Insulin is required in order to effectively treat Type I diabetes. There are many different kinds of insulin used for diabetes treatment including intermediate options, long-acting insulin, and rapid-acting insulin. Humulin R, NovoLog, and Lantus are a few of the more popular brands of insulin and depending on the patient's needs, his or her physician may prescribe a combination of several types.
Medical researchers are attempting to develop new ways to administer insulin. However, injections are currently the most widely used method. Insulin cannot be administered orally because stomach enzymes inhibit its absorption and weaken its effect. In addition to taking insulin, maintaining a healthy diet and exercise program and regular monitoring of one's blood sugar is also vitally important.
The management of diabetes can seem overwhelming to many individuals and doctors frequently recommend a “one day at a time” approach to diabetes treatment. Many sufferers find that attending a support group for diabetics on a regular basis helps them feel less alone. In addition, it is wise for those with diabetes to work closely with their primary health care provider to ensure that the best possible plan of treatment is followed.