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What is the Connection Between Diabetes and Insulin?

Kathy Heydasch
Kathy Heydasch

Diabetes and insulin are very closely intertwined. Diabetes mellitus, referred to as simply diabetes, is a disease that affects the body’s ability to produce or use insulin. Diabetes can be a life-threatening disease if left unchecked. There are many forms of diabetes, including gestational diabetes and congenital diabetes, with the most common being type 2 diabetes. In all cases, the disease must be managed, either through insulin therapy or medication.

In a healthy person, insulin is produced by beta cells within the pancreas. Insulin regulates blood sugar levels, preventing them from going too high or too low. With diabetes and insulin abnormalities, either a person ceases to produce insulin or the receptors simply cannot use it efficiently. These abnormalities are chronic, and there is no known cure for diabetes, only treatment of the systems and management of the insulin and blood sugar levels.

Diabetics can use portable blood testing devices to monitor their glucose levels.
Diabetics can use portable blood testing devices to monitor their glucose levels.

Insulin works to help convert sugars in the blood stream — absorbed through liquid or food — into glucose, which the body needs to use and store energy. In type 1 diabetes, insulin is not produced naturally by the body, and insulin injections are required. With type 2 diabetes, a person may produce insulin, but the body cannot use it effectively. Less severe cases of type 2 diabetes might be managed with a prescription medication rather than insulin injections.

A vial of insulin.
A vial of insulin.

Diabetes and insulin management are topics that must be discussed with a physician. There are over 20 types of insulin sold in the US, and each may vary slightly in how it reacts with the body. The manner in which insulin is injected into the body can vary as well. This includes the use of syringes, an insulin pump or an insulin pen. Insulin cannot be taken in a tablet form like a vitamin because it would be broken down during the digestion process and rendered ineffective. It must be injected under the skin so that it can be absorbed directly into the bloodstream.

People with Type 1 diabetes have high blood sugar levels because their body does not produce insulin.
People with Type 1 diabetes have high blood sugar levels because their body does not produce insulin.

Indicators of diabetes and insulin deficiency are increased thirst or hunger, blurred vision, and dehydration. Type 1 diabetes typically develops rapidly, perhaps over the course of a few weeks. Type 2 diabetes takes much longer to develop and is often called adult-onset diabetes. Full-blown diabetes can be life-threatening, as a diabetic with an unchecked blood sugar level can lapse into a coma and even die.

An insulin pen can be used to inject insulin into the bloodstream to control glucose levels for those suffering with diabetes.
An insulin pen can be used to inject insulin into the bloodstream to control glucose levels for those suffering with diabetes.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US has deemed the large increase in persons with diabetes an epidemic. Since 90-95% of diabetic patients suffer from type 2 diabetes, the epidemic proportions relate mostly to what is arguably a preventable disease in some cases. Contributing factors to adult-onset diabetes and insulin abnormalities include obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, and high blood pressure.

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    • Diabetics can use portable blood testing devices to monitor their glucose levels.
      Diabetics can use portable blood testing devices to monitor their glucose levels.
    • A vial of insulin.
      By: Restyler
      A vial of insulin.
    • People with Type 1 diabetes have high blood sugar levels because their body does not produce insulin.
      By: Alila Medical Media
      People with Type 1 diabetes have high blood sugar levels because their body does not produce insulin.
    • An insulin pen can be used to inject insulin into the bloodstream to control glucose levels for those suffering with diabetes.
      By: Kuruan
      An insulin pen can be used to inject insulin into the bloodstream to control glucose levels for those suffering with diabetes.
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      Glucose metabolism requires insulin, a substance normally produced by the body.
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      Physicians recommend that people over the age of 45 have diabetes screenings on a routine basis.
    • Insulin pumps come the closest to simulating the work of the pancreas for diabetics.
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      Insulin pumps come the closest to simulating the work of the pancreas for diabetics.
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      If the pancreas fails to properly produce insulin, blood glucose levels will rise.