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What is the Relationship Between Diabetes and Glucose?

By Tony Hernandez
Updated May 17, 2024
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When people eat ordinary table sugar, called sucrose, the body digests it into fructose and glucose. Glucose is a simple sugar that the body uses to provide the cells with energy. The body normally protects itself from the damaging effects of high glucose levels by neutralizing the glucose it does not need. Insulin is the main substance used to keep blood glucose levels from becoming too high, but people who have diabetes might either have a resistance to the effects of insulin or might not produce insulin at all. This is how diabetes and glucose are related.

There are two types of diabetes, type 1 and type 2. In type 1 diabetes, the sufferer does not produce insulin at all. People who have type 2 diabetes do produce insulin, but their bodies do not respond to it as well as a healthy body would. In either type, the relationship between diabetes and glucose is direct. Untreated diabetes causes blood sugar to rise to unhealthy levels.

Diabetes and glucose levels can be controlled by diet, exercise or medication. The mode of control depends on the severity and type of the disease. People who have type 1 diabetes always have to take insulin because their bodies simply do not produce it. Control of type 2 diabetes might never involve the use of insulin treatment if the patient is compliant with prescribed medication and lifestyle modification.

There is a direct correlation between diabetes and glucose tolerance. Glucose tolerance is sometimes tested as part of the process of diabetes diagnosis. The patient drinks a solution of sugar and water right after having his or her blood sugar level tested. Blood sugar is tested two to three hours after drinking the solution. A blood sugar level of 99 to 199 might indicate prediabetes, and levels of 200 and above call for a clear diagnosis of diabetes.

Another test for diabetes involves checking the blood glucose level after the patient has been fasting for at least eight hours. If the level is high enough to arouse suspicion, the practitioner might perform the same test on another day to confirm the diagnosis. Further testing and medical history helps determine the type of diabetes, which will in turn determine the course of treatment.

Hemoglobin A1C is a test that indicates average blood glucose levels over the three months prior to taking the test. Most practitioners use hemoglobin A1C to determine how effective the current treatment is in keeping diabetes and glucose under control. Patients should take this test several times a year to be sure that the prescribed treatment is still working.

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Discussion Comments
By ysmina — On Jun 28, 2012

@ddljohn-- That's a nice explanation, it definitely simplified things for me. Thanks!

Is that why diabetics tend to experience circulation problems, because the glucose in the bloodstream damages veins?

And from what I understand, everything we eat is transformed into glucose right? It's not like only table sugar becomes glucose, so does protein and carbohydrates. It's just that some foods cause glucose to enter the bloodstream faster than others. I think that's why diabetics are supposed to eat low glycemic foods so that glucose enters the blood more slowly.

By ddljohn — On Jun 27, 2012

@ysmina-- Hey, great question! I didn't know about it either, but I saw a program on TV the other day where they explained the relationship between diabetes and glucose very well.

Basically what the doctor said is that with type two diabetes, the insulin is deformed. So when you eat a meal and the glucose starts entering the bloodstream and reaches the insulin molecules, the insulin doesn't recognize the glucose. So it doesn't attach to the glucose molecules and remove them from blood to turn it into energy the cells can use.

The glucose molecules keep building up in the bloodstream and the brain keeps producing more insulin which also keeps building up. This is dangerous because if the blood sugar / glucose levels go high enough, the person can go into a coma. It is also damaging to the veins and arteries.

This is what they call type two diabetes. Does it make sense now?

By ysmina — On Jun 27, 2012

I have just been diagnosed with type two diabetes. I had gone to the doctor's office for a routine check up. Since I have diabetes in my family history, the doctor told me to come in on another day so that he can do a diabetes blood sugar test. I went in and the results came back the same day, diagnosing me with type two diabetes.

I am now taking medications and have been put on a diet. Now that I think about it, I did have some symptoms of diabetes before, like drinking a lot of water and craving carbohydrates. But I would have never thought that I would get diagnosed with it.

I understand that type two diabetes means that the glucose levels in my blood go up too high because of an insulin problem. But what is that problem exactly? Why won't my insulin work properly? Why does glucose accumulate in the bloodstream like that?

If any experienced diabetics can enlighten me on this, that would be great.

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