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Diabetes

 

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Overview
Diabetes mellitus and its complications affect over 12 million people in this country -- that's one in 20 Americans -- and five million adults don't even know they have the disease. The segment shows Dane, who has type I diabetes, the kind of diabetes in which the pancreas secretes little or no insulin. Dane's body breaks down carbohydrates into glucose, but because he doesn't have enough insulin, the glucose can't leave the bloodstream and get into his body's cells. The blood carrying this excess sugar passes through the kidneys and causes an increased loss of body fluids. This need for replacement fluids leaves Dane feeling excessively thirsty. To feel good and live an active life, Dane injects insulin twice a day, tests his blood sugars, and balances his diet and exercise. The cause of type I diabetes is not known for certain. The greatest evidence points to an autoimmune process that destroys the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. It is unclear whether diabetes is inherited, but it is believed that some individuals may be genetically susceptible to getting diabetes. In these susceptible individuals, an environmental factor such as a viral infection may trigger the autoimmune process that leads to type I diabetes. Type II diabetes, in which the body makes insulin but not enough, is associated with advancing age and obesity. Almost all cases of type I diabetes occur before the age of 40, with a peak incidence of around age 14. However, of all the people who have diabetes, only about 10% are type I; the rest are type II. Many people with type II diabetes don't have to inject insulin, but can control it by eating properly or taking medications that stimulate insulin production. Both types of diabetes, however, require balancing acts: Diet must be varied; food intake must be scheduled; and sugar consumption must be moderate. Promising medical advancements may make life for those with diabetes easier and less restrictive. Pancreatic transplants and Islets of Langerhans transplants might eliminate the need for insulin injections for some patients; computer-controlled blood-sugar monitoring and insulin administration may improve the day-to-day lives of many people who have diabetes.

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