Cutting through the Noise: What Diabetes Is and Isn’t
Research done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States. There are 34.2 million US adults who have it, with 1 in 5 being unaware that they have the condition in the first place.
Despite how common the disease has become, there are people with diabetes who do not fully understand what it is and what it is not. To clear up the misunderstanding and help cope with the diagnosis, we cut through the noise surrounding this hormone condition below.
What Is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not produce enough or any insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar levels. A diabetic may also not use the insulin produced by the body properly.
When any of or both conditions happen, the cells in the body are unable to absorb sugar from the blood to perform their functions. The result is a consistently high blood glucose level, the defining factor in diabetes diagnosis.
There are three types of diabetes: type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, and gestational diabetes. We’ll dive into further detail below.
3 Types of Diabetes
1. Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition. The body’s immune system continuously destroys its own beta cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. It is diagnosed early in life, in children, teens, and young adults.
People with type 1 diabetes need to take insulin daily to survive.
2. Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is the most common among the three. It begins as insulin resistance, which stimulates the pancreas to produce more insulin.
When this occurrence prolongs, there will eventually be an imbalance between the demand and supply of insulin. Then, the production decreases, leading to high blood sugar.
A high sugar diet, lack of exercise, genetics, lifestyle, and being overweight are the contributing factors of type 2 diabetes. Thus, it can be managed by making changes to one’s manner of living.
3. Gestational Diabetes
Gestational diabetes develops in pregnant women and affects the baby in the womb as well. It occurs due to insulin-blocking hormones produced during pregnancy.
This type of diabetes usually goes away after delivery, but poses the risk for obesity and type 2 diabetes later in life for both the mother and the child.
Symptoms of Diabetes
The general signs and symptoms of diabetes include:
- High blood sugar readings
- Slow-healing wounds
- Dark patches on the neck and armpits
- Excessive hunger and thirst
- Frequent urination
- Extreme and sudden weight loss
- Dry, itchy skin
- Blurry vision
- Numbness in the lower limbs and feet
Diabetes Management and Treatment
The treatment and management of diabetes focus on keeping one’s blood glucose levels within the normal range. The target range varies based on age, type of diabetes, and presence of complications.
Of course a healthy lifestyle and a low sugar diet will be prescribed by your doctor alongside your insulin prescription. Increased and regular physical activity is advised, and diabetes tools and equipment are needed for close monitoring of blood sugar and cholesterol.
Types of Insulin
For those getting a prescription for the first time, it’s important to know that insulin will be prescribed with a type or types and dosage appropriate for your specific health condition.
Such characteristics create variations between the three major types:
1. Fast-Acting or Rapid-Acting Insulin
This kind is prescribed to manage high blood sugar and control it during meals. It is injected into the fat tissue three times a day. Examples are:
It is commonly used with long-acting insulin because it takes effect, peaks, and leaves the bloodstream immediately. Here are its characteristics:
- Onset – between 5-15 minutes after injection
- Peak effect – 1-2 hours after injection
- Duration – 2-6 hours
2. Intermediate-Acting Insulin
This type of insulin is used to control blood sugar between meals, while fasting, and overnight. It lasts in the blood longer and is absorbed slower than rapid-acting insulin. Examples are NPH Novolin N and NPH Humulin N.
Intermediate-acting insulin is injected twice a day and has the following characteristics:
- Onset – 1-2 hours from the injection time
- Peak effect – 4-6 hours from the injection time
- Duration – 12 hours
3. Long-Acting Insulin
Long-acting insulin medication has a stable plateau effect, which means they are absorbed slowly and lasts in the blood for almost a whole day. They are used to control blood sugar overnight and in between meals and injected only once a day, in the morning or before bedtime.
These types of insulin have the following characteristics:
- Onset – 1.5-2 hours from the time of injection
- Peak effect – None
- Duration – 24 hours
Other Types of Insulin
Newer insulin types have emerged throughout the years to cater to the varying needs of diabetic patients. These are more specific and are meant to target hormone needs that the major three cannot meet.
1. Regular or Short-acting Insulin
Examples of short-acting insulin types are Novolin R and Humulin R. These are commonly used during mealtime and have the following characteristics:
- Onset – 30 minutes after injection
- Peak effect – 2-3 hours after injection
- Duration – 3-6 hours
2. Ultra-Long-Acting Insulin
Ultra-long-acting insulin onsets six hours from the time of injection, has no peak, and lasts in the blood for up to 36 hours. It is used to reduce the risk of hypoglycemia or low blood sugar. An example of this is Tresiba.
3. Pre-Mixed or Combination
This type of medication mixes regular human insulin with a rapid-acting analog and short-acting with intermediate-acting. Common examples are:
- Humulin 70/30 – 70% intermediate-acting Isophane Suspension and 30% short-acting
- Humalog Mix 50/50 – 50% Lispro and 50% Lispro Protamine Suspension (rapid-acting and immediate acting)
- Humalog Mix 75/25 – 75% Lispro protamine suspension and 25% Lispro (intermediate-acting and rapid-acting)
- Novolin 70/30 – 70% intermediate-acting and 30% short-acting
- Novolog Mix 70/30 – 70% Aspart Protamine and 30% Aspart (intermediate-acting and rapid-acting)
4. Inhaled Insulin
This is a type of insulin that carries the brand name Afrezza. It is rapid-acting and used in combination with a long-acting type.
- Onset – 12-15 minutes from inhalation time
- Peak effect – 30 minutes from the time of inhalation
- Duration – 3 hours
What Diabetes Isn’t
Knowing the myths surrounding diabetes will help you avoid mistakes in properly managing your condition. Here are some important things to keep in mind:
Diabetes Isn’t Only About High Blood Sugar
Diabetes is a precursor of heart disease, kidney conditions, and other health problems. Keeping your blood sugar levels within the normal range is not just to keep diabetes from taking over your life but also to help lower the risk of complications.
Managing Diabetes Isn’t Just About Taking Insulin
While taking insulin is a must with a diabetes diagnosis, diet and lifestyle should also be modified to eliminate the “couch potato” habit and high glycemic foods. Increased hydration with water and weight and stress management are also crucial.
Diabetes Isn’t the Driver of Your Life
Being diagnosed with diabetes shouldn’t be the only thing that should preoccupy you. Life goes on and disease management through a treatment plan you create with your doctor is key.
Follow your prescription religiously, and ensure you always have stock at home. Purchase insulin online, so you don’t have to worry about transporting the vials home from the local pharmacy. PharmaServe can cater to prescriptions for the different types of diabetes and remind you when your stock needs filling up.