"Sugar diabetes" is a general term describing diseases in which the body is unable to control blood sugar levels. The term "blood sugar," or "blood glucose," describes the presence of a simple sugar called glucose in the bloodstream. Glucose serves to fuel the body’s cells and is obtained by eating starchy foods. Sugar diabetes, known by medical professionals as diabetes mellitus, is characterized by the body’s inability to properly use blood glucose to fuel itself.
In a healthy body, digestion of starchy foods produces glucose, which is then absorbed into the bloodstream. In order to fuel the cells of the body, the glucose must be brought out of the bloodstream and into the body’s cells. This is achieved by the insulin hormone. Beta cells that produce insulin react to the changing blood glucose levels and regulate the release of insulin into the bloodstream.
There are two main types of diabetes, called type 1 and type 2. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder that develops when the body attacks the beta cells of the pancreas, rendering the body incapable of producing insulin. Glucose will then build up in the bloodstream, but because there is no means of getting the glucose into the cells, the cells will starve of energy. This disease usually develops in children and young adults and is therefore often referred to as "juvenile diabetes."
Type 1 diabetes is insulin-dependent, requiring the use of an outside source of insulin so that cells can pull in the glucose and fuel themselves. Individuals maintain control over this disease with frequent dosages of needle-administered insulin or the use of an insulin pump. To determine insulin dosages, direct testing of blood sugar is required several times a day. This is usually done by drawing blood from the finger and depositing it into a glucose meter.
The other type of diabetes, type 2 diabetes, is a metabolic disease, meaning that the cells do not react to insulin. In an individual who has this type of sugar diabetes, the body will continue to produce insulin, but the cells have developed insulin resistance and will not absorb glucose in response. This disease is generally understood to be a result of environmental factors such as obesity, poor diet, smoking or a lack of exercise. The first treatment option for this disease is lifestyle modifications.
If untreated, sugar diabetes can result in extreme complications, including blindness, heart attack, stroke, wounds that will not heal or are slow to heal, amputation and even death. In the case of type 1 diabetes, those at risk for developing this disease are those with family members who suffer from this type of sugar diabetes. Those at risk for type 2 diabetes are those who maintain unhealthy lifestyles such as smoking, poor exercise, poor diet and obesity.