Insulin is a hormone that in effect reduces blood sugar (glucose) levels by stimulating the absorption of blood glucose by the liver and muscles.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition which commonly develops during childhood and early adolescence. The autoimmune process destroys a group of cells in the pancreas known as the islets of Langerhans which are normally responsible for producing a hormone named insulin.
Type 2 diabetes is a condition where bodily cells normally stimulated by insulin become less responsive to the hormone and, therefore, higher blood glucose concentrations remain as the glucose is not absorbed by the liver and muscles as it normally would be.
Type 1 and type 2 diabetes are entirely separate conditions and although management of both conditions is aimed at maintaining a stable, normal blood glucose level the management to achieve this aim varies considerably.
As the ability of the body to produce insulin has been diminished, the management of type 1 diabetes involves administering a synthetic insulin medication to the body.
The difficulty in managing this process is that the amount of insulin needed is dependent on many factors and is, therefore, not entirely predictable. Therefore, sufferers of type 1 diabetes need to regularly monitor their blood glucose levels and adjust their insulin intake as necessary.
It is recommended that sufferers of type 1 diabetes carbohydrate count as this can often help determine the amount of insulin needed after each meal.
The delivery of insulin is normally via self-administered injection but in sufferers who are unable to get their blood glucose levels consistently under control they may be advised to use an insulin pump which can give a more continuous dose of insulin dependent on the time of day or night.
It is thought that the insulin resistance that causes type 2 diabetes is caused by repeated high levels of glucose in the blood over many years. Risk factors for having repeated high blood glucose concentrations include:
- Physical inactivity
- Diet high in sugar
- High alcohol intake
There also appears to be a genetic predisposition to developing type 2 diabetes. For patients who have developed this condition the good news is that studies demonstrate that significant progress can be made by eating healthily, losing weight and with regular physical exercise.
At Circle Health our endocrinology experts work closely with expert dieticians to provide you with the best possible advice regarding strategies to manage your blood glucose.