Diabetes is a health condition that can have far-ranging impacts on your health, affecting the way that you move, the way that you think, the way that you feel in your own skin, and the way that you perceive your environment. Diabetes is also highly prevalent, with 1 in 10 adults in the United States experiencing the condition and 1 in 3 adults in the United States living with its precursor, known as prediabetes. However, diabetes is often subtle, and it’s possible to have the condition without even realizing it, which limits your ability to make lifestyle changes that can improve your future health outlook.
You may be familiar with diabetes because you or a loved one have been affected by it, but you may not be aware of the full impact of diabetes on individuals and society at large. In honor of November’s status as American Diabetes Month, as well as World Diabetes Day (which occurs on November 14 each year), here’s what you need to know about diabetes, including why clinical research is crucial in the fight against this disease.
What Is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic health condition marked by high levels of blood sugar, also known as blood glucose. The root cause of high blood glucose varies, and there are two main types of non-gestational (non-pregnancy related) diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2.
In Type 1 diabetes, the primary reason for elevated blood sugar is a problem with the pancreas. Your pancreas is an organ in your abdomen that stores and releases insulin, a hormone that helps remove sugar from your bloodstream and bring it into your body’s cells, which can be used as fuel. People with Type 1 diabetes can’t produce or secrete insulin, which causes dangerously high levels of blood sugar. The condition usually begins in childhood or adolescence (though it can begin at any age), and it may be caused by autoimmunity resulting from exposure to a virus, certain genes, or other environmental factors, though researchers are not positive.
In Type 2 diabetes, the primary reason for elevated blood sugar is a problem with how your body responds to the hormone insulin. Your pancreas is still making insulin, but your cells are less receptive to insulin’s attempts to retrieve sugar from the bloodstream and deliver it to them. In Type 2 diabetes, the chronically elevated blood sugar levels that cause cells to be “insulin resistant” can stem from lifestyle factors such as nutrition and physical activity, as well as your genetic makeup.
How Is Diabetes Treated?
To treat diabetes, the primary goal is to lower your blood sugar to prevent high blood sugar levels from causing damage throughout the body. Management of diabetes varies depending on whether you have Type 1 diabetes or Type 2 diabetes.
For a Type 1 diabetic, blood sugar is lowered by injecting the hormone insulin, since the pancreas can no longer create it. As a result, people who have Type 1 diabetes must monitor their blood sugar levels closely and deliver insulin to themselves several times throughout the day to account for their physical activity, state of health, and food intake, among many other factors. Clinical research advances have had a huge impact on people who are living with this condition, including the development of continuous glucose monitoring systems and insulin pumps.
In Type 2 diabetes, you can lower your blood sugar through lifestyle changes (such as improved exercise and nutrition), as well as via oral and injectable medications. Clinical research has dramatically improved the diversity of medications that are available to help control this condition, with a variety of oral pills and injectable solutions that can help personalize your care and have a positive effect on other health conditions, as well.
Why Clinical Diabetes Research Is Crucial
Managing diabetes daily can be difficult. However, with advances in research, the quality of life for people with diabetes continues to improve. Research is not only critical to help people with diabetes better manage their condition, but it is also crucial to help more clearly understand what causes the condition in the first place so that it can be better prevented.
Living with diabetes can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, chronic pain, infections, neurologic problems, vision problems, and circulation problems, among many others. When patients participate in trials and researchers unlock ways to better prevent, detect, and manage diabetes, the long-term outcomes associated with diabetes will also improve, affecting the lives of millions of Americans and countless others worldwide.
To learn more about participating in clinical research for diabetes, contact us today.