Diabetes mellitus gets its name from the ancient Greek word for a siphon (tube), because early physicians noted that diabetics tend to be unusually thirsty and to urinate a lot, as if a tube quickly drained out everything they drank. Mellitus is from the Latin version of the ancient Greek word for honey; it was used because doctors in centuries past diagnosed the disease by the sweet taste of the patient's urine.
The number of people diagnosed with diabetes has almost doubled since 1990. In 2002, some 18.2 million people had diabetes, over 6 percent of the population. Among those 18.2 million people, 13 million have been diagnosed and over 5 million have diabetes but don't know it yet. Figure 11-11 lists risk factors for diabetes.
Diabetes is a disease in which there is insufficient or ineffective insulin, a hormone that helps regulate the blood sugar level. When the blood sugar rises, such as after eating a meal, the pancreas releases insulin. The insulin facilitates the entry of glucose into body cells, to be used for energy. If there is no insulin or if the insulin is not working, sugar cannot enter the cells. Thus, high blood sugar levels (called hyperglycemia) result, and sugar spills into the urine.
Overall, the risk for death among people with diabetes is about two times that of people without diabetes. People with diabetes are more vulnerable to many kinds of infections and to deterioration of the kidneys, heart, blood vessels, nerves, and vision. Diabetes can lead to serious complications such as blindness, kidney damage, and lower-limb amputations. Working together, people with diabetes and their health-care providers can reduce the occurrence of these and other diabetic complications (Figure 11-12) by controlling the levels of blood glucose,
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