Saturday, September 8, 2007


Diabetes mellitus

is a metabolic disorder characterized by hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) and other signs, as distinct from a single illness or condition. The World Health Organization recognizes three main forms of diabetes mellitus: type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes (occurring during pregnancy),[1] which have similar signs, symptoms, and consequences, but different causes and population distributions. Ultimately, all forms are due to the beta cells of the pancreas being unable to produce sufficient insulin to prevent hyperglycemia.[2] Type 1 is usually due to autoimmune destruction of the pancreatic beta cells which produce insulin. Type 2 is characterized by tissue-wide insulin resistance and varies widely; it sometimes progresses to loss of beta cell function. Gestational diabetes is similar to type 2 diabetes, in that it involves insulin resistance; the hormones of pregnancy cause insulin resistance in those women genetically predisposed to developing this condition.

Types 1 and 2 are incurable chronic conditions, but have been treatable since insulin became medically available in 1921, and today are usually managed with a combination of dietary treatment, tablets (in type 2) and, frequently, insulin supplementation. Gestational diabetes typically resolves with delivery.

Diabetes can cause many complications. Acute complications (hypoglycemia, ketoacidosis or nonketotic hyperosmolar coma) may occur if the disease is not adequately controlled. Serious long-term complications include cardiovascular disease (doubled risk), chronic renal failure (diabetic nephropathy is the main cause of dialysis in developed world adults), retinal damage (which can lead to blindness and is the most significant cause of adult blindness in the non-elderly in the developed world), nerve damage (of several kinds), and microvascular damage, which may cause erectile dysfunction (impotence) and poor healing. Poor healing of wounds, particularly of the feet, can lead to gangrene which can require amputation — the leading cause of non-traumatic amputation in adults in the developed world. Adequate treatment of diabetes, as well as increased emphasis on blood pressure control and lifestyle factors (such as not smoking and keeping a healthy body weight), may improve the risk profile of most aforementioned complications.