What is diabetes?
Diabetes mellitus is a group of metabolic diseases characterized by high blood sugar (glucose) levels, which result from defects in insulin secretion, or action, or both. Diabetes mellitus, commonly referred to as diabetes was first identified as a disease associated with “sweet urine," and excessive muscle loss in the ancient world. Elevated levels of blood glucose (hyperglycemia) lead to spillage of glucose into the urine, hence the term sweet urine. Normally, blood glucose levels are tightly controlled by insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas. Insulin lowers the blood glucose level. When the blood glucose elevates (for example, after eating food), insulin is released from the pancreas to normalize the glucose level. In patients with diabetes, the absence or insufficient production of insulin causes hyperglycemia. Diabetes is a chronic medical condition, meaning that although it can be controlled, it lasts a lifetime.
What is the impact of diabetes?
Over time, diabetes can lead to blindness, kidney failure, and nerve damage. These types of damage are the result of damage to small vessels, referred to as microvascular disease. Diabetes is also an important factor in accelerating the hardening and narrowing of the arteries (atherosclerosis), leading to strokes, coronary heart disease, and other large blood vessel diseases. This is referred to as macrovascular disease. Diabetes affects approximately 17 million people (about 8% of the population) in the United States. In addition, an estimated additional 12 million people in the United States have diabetes and don't even know it. From an economic perspective, the total annual cost of diabetes in 1997 was estimated to be 98 billion dollars in the United States. The per capita cost resulting from diabetes in 1997 amounted to $10,071.00; while healthcare costs for people without diabetes incurred a per capita cost of $2,699.00. During this same year, 13.9 million days of hospital stay were attributed to diabetes, while 30.3 million physician office visits were diabetes related. Remember, these numbers reflect only the population in the United States. Globally, the statistics are staggering.