What is the difference between “sugar” and “glucose” when discussing diabetes?
When discussing diabetes, the terms “sugar” and “glucose” are often used interchangeably. Both terms are actually correct, as glucose is a form of sugar. But the term “sugar” is more commonly used by the public, and is why many people will say they “have sugar” when they are diagnosed with any type of diabetes.
Is blood the only part of a human that contains glucose?
No, there are many “liquids” associated with the human body that contain glucose, not just the blood. For example, saliva, sweat, and tears contain glucose, a fact that was known as far back as the 1930s. And of course, all the body’s cells contain glucose because they need that component for energy.
What are the most common types of diabetes?
Diabetes is commonly divided into several categories, depending on the severity, initial occurrence of the disease, and the cause of the diabetes. The most common types are prediabetes, type 1 and type 2, and gestational diabetes. (For more details about prediabetes, types 1 and 2 diabetes, gestational, and the many other forms of diabetes, see their respective chapters.) The following lists the general conditions for these forms of diabetes:
* prediabetes (also called impaired glucose tolerance[IGT] or impaired fasting glucose [IFG], depending on the test used): When a person has blood glucose (sugar) levels above the normal range, but not high enough to be diagnosable as diabetes, they are considered prediabetic.
* type 1 (also seen as Type I, Type 1, or T1D): Also referred to as immune-mediated diabetes mellitus—formerly called insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus or juvenile diabetes—people with type 1 diabetes do not make enough insulin, the protein hormone made by the pancreas that helps the body use (and store) glucose from food.
* type 2 (also seen as Type II, Type 2, or T2D): Also called insulin-resistant diabetes mellitus or adult-onset diabetes by some (although many do not use these terms anymore), type 2 diabetes usually occurs for two reasons. A person can develop type 2 diabetes when their body becomes less responsive to insulin, also known as insulin resistance. Or it can occur when the pancreas supplies too little insulin to keep up with the increased demand when a person has insulin resistance.
* gestational diabetes: Also called gestational diabetes mellitus, it occurs during some pregnancies, but not all. It is a form of diabetes that affects between 5 and 9 percent of pregnant women (depending on the study) in the United States. There are usually no symptoms or the symptoms are mild, and it is usually found during a fasting blood glucose test.
Why are there so many misconceptions when it comes to understanding diabetes?
One of the main reasons for misconceptions concerning diabetes is that it comes in several different but related forms. Someone who has type 1 diabetes develops the disease differently than a person with type 2 diabetes. But because many of the symptoms of the disease are similar and often overlap, many people confuse the true reasons behind the two types.
Many other misconceptions about diabetes originated from how the disease was treated over the past century. For example, even the common phrase “I have sugar”—usually meant to indicate that a person had diabetes—is why most people think eating too much sugar will cause the disease—but this is definitely a myth (see sidebar).
Does eating sugar cause type 1 or type 2 diabetes?
No, eating sugar does not cause type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Neither does eating fruit or vegetables that contain various types of sugars. In fact, if a person has a healthy pancreas, eating a modest amount of sugar in its various forms can help that organ produce more insulin for the body to use.
That being said, it is thought that there are several reasons why a person develops type 2 diabetes, and many are connected to sugar. Indirectly, the disease can often be “helped along” by the ingestion of the various types of sugar. For example, if the person’s pancreas is diseased or does not function well, it can cause the body to process sugars incorrectly, which can lead to diabetes. If a person eats too many sweets, the pancreas can eventually have a difficult time handling the excess sugar and a person can develop type 2 diabetes. If a person has a genetic predisposition to type 2 diabetes and/or overeats (often by eating too many sweets) becoming obese, this can lead to diabetes. Thus sugar has been known to affect a person and can help lead to diabetes, but it is not the cause of the disease. (For more about sugar and diabetes, see the chapter “Diabetes and Eating.”)
If a person is overweight or obese will they always develop type 2 diabetes?
No, not everyone who is overweight or obese will develop type 2 diabetes. In fact, some people who are normal weight or even moderately overweight can develop the disease. But having such extra weight often means the person has a higher risk for the disease. There also are other factors, such as family history (genetics), age (older people are more at risk to develop the disease), and ethnicity that can also mean a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. (For more about diabetes and obesity, see the chapter, “Diabetes and Obesity.”)
In general, what is the difference between the causes of type 1 (or type I) and type 2 (or type II) diabetes?
Type 1, once (and still often) called insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM), and type 2, once (and still often) called non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM), are the two most well-known types of diabetes. In general, insulin is deficient in a person with type 1 diabetes. With type 2 diabetes, a person’s insulin secretion may be normal, but the target cells for insulin are less responsive than normal, or the insulin secretion may become abnormal. (For more details about type 1, see the chapter “Type 1 Diabetes” and for type 2 diabetes, see the chapter “Prediabetes and Type 2 Diabetes.”)
What are some “hidden” signs of diabetes?
Not all signs of the major types of diabetes are evident. They also may mimic other health problems and are often misinterpreted. Some of the more “hidden” signs of type 1 diabetes—and to a lesser extent type 2 diabetes—include red, tender, or swollen gums and tooth decay; high blood pressure; digestive problems; excessive thirst; mental confusion and fatigue; wounds that heal slowly; and numbness, burning pain, or tingling in the hands and feet. As stated, some of these symptoms are also signs of other major diseases. This is why it is important to check with a health care professional in order to undergo testing for diabetes or other health problems if these symptoms become apparent.
What are some ways to diagnose early signs of diabetes?
Two of the best-known ways to detect early signs of any type of diabetes is to check for glucose in the urine (an “older” way of detecting glucose) and/or test for high blood glucose levels (a “newer” way of detecting glucose). Normally, the hormone insulin is produced by the pancreas, allowing the body to remove glucose from the blood and use it as fuel for cells. If a person has diabetes, the blood glucose in the body rises to unhealthy levels because the glucose is not removed at all, or is not removed quickly enough.
When there is too much glucose—or when it reaches a certain level in a person’s body—the glucose essentially spills over into the urine. Although not used as much, and usually only if a test for blood glucose is not available, a special test strip exposed to a person’s urine can detect if their blood sugar is high (but it cannot measure if the level is too low). The second, more reliable way (and one used by most health care professionals today) is to measure a person’s blood sugar with a blood glucose tests, such as the fasting blood glucose test. (For more about blood glucose tests, see the chapter “Taking Charge of Diabetes.”)
Excerpted from The Handy Diabetes Answer Book by Patricia Barnes-Svarney Copyright © 2017 by Patricia Barnes-Svarney. Excerpted by permission of Visible Ink Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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