What is diabetes? What are the types of diabetes?

Diabetes is a group of medical conditions characterized by issues related to the hormone insulin. Typically, the pancreas, located behind the stomach, plays a crucial role in releasing insulin to assist the body in storing and utilizing the sugars and fats obtained from the food we consume. Diabetes occurs under several circumstances:

1. When the pancreas fails to produce any insulin.
2. When the pancreas produces insufficient insulin.
3. When the body does not respond properly to insulin, resulting in a condition known as "insulin resistance."

Diabetes is a chronic, lifelong condition. Approximately 18.2 million Americans are affected by the disease, with nearly one-third, or around 5.2 million, being unaware of their condition. An additional 41 million individuals are in a state of pre-diabetes. Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for diabetes, and individuals with diabetes must effectively manage their condition to maintain their health.

Understanding the Role of Insulin in Diabetes

To comprehend the importance of insulin in diabetes, it is helpful to gain insight into how the body processes food for energy. The human body consists of millions of cells that require food in a simplified form to produce energy. When we eat or drink, a significant portion of our food is broken down into a basic sugar called "glucose." This glucose is then transported through the bloodstream to the body's cells, where it serves as a source of energy for various daily activities.

The level of glucose in the bloodstream is tightly regulated by the hormone insulin. The pancreas consistently releases insulin in small amounts. When the concentration of glucose in the blood reaches a certain threshold, the pancreas releases more insulin to facilitate the transfer of glucose into the cells. This process lowers the levels of glucose in the blood, maintaining blood glucose levels.

To prevent blood glucose levels from becoming too low, the body sends signals to encourage eating and releases stored glucose from the liver.

In the case of individuals with diabetes, they either do not produce insulin or their body's cells exhibit resistance to insulin. This leads to elevated sugar levels in the bloodstream, a condition referred to as high blood sugar. Diabetes is typically diagnosed when a person's fasting blood glucose level is 126 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or higher after an overnight fast (abstaining from eating).