Diabetes mellitus and pathophysiology of the disease is centered on the
hormone insulin. Insulin is produced in the pancreas and secreted by the
beta cells. Its primary function is to control the level of glucose
(sugar) in the blood.
By regulating this level it allows glucose to move out of the blood and into the body cells where it can be used for energy. This is the normal function of insulin, but what happens in a diabetic’s body?
In a person with diabetes mellitus, insulin is either not produced in sufficient amounts or the body is resistant to its affects. This causes sugar levels in the blood to increase because the insulin effect is insufficient to push the sugar out of the blood and into the body cells.
The term for elevated blood sugar levels is hyperglycemia and over time these chronically high levels can lead to serious health complications, including heart and blood vessel disease, eye disorders, and damage to the kidneys and nervous system.
There are two main types of diabetes, type 1 and type 2. Type 1 is sometimes referred to as juvenile diabetes because it can develop early in life or insulin-dependent diabetes because treatment involves the supplementation of insulin.
The pathophysiology of type 1 diabetes is thought to be an autoimmune disease. It "results from autoimmune destruction of insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas"(1). As a consequence, the pancreas cannot secrete insulin in sufficient amounts.
Type 2 diabetes mellitus is often referred to as adult-onset diabetes although the disease is showing a trend of affecting younger generations or noninsulin-dependent diabetes because it can often be controlled with lifestyle changes and without the need for insulin supplementation.
The pathophysiology of type 2 diabetes suggests there is a sufficient production of insulin however the body cells resist the affect of the insulin. Since the body cells refuse to take up the excess sugar from the blood, blood sugar levels remain elevated.
After diagnosis, a doctor may advise the person on proper lifestyle changes or prescribe medication to treat the disease. Because diabetes is such a common condition world-wide, diabetes-mellitus and pathophysiology of the disease is a topic of continuous research.
(1) Wikipedia (2010). Diabetes mellitus type 1. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diabetes_mellitus_type_1