diabetes mellitus

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Diabetes Mellitus



Diabetes mellitus is a condition in which the pancreas no longer produces enough insulin or cells stop responding to the insulin that is produced, so that glucose in the blood cannot be absorbed into the cells of the body. Symptoms include frequent urination, lethargy, excessive thirst, and hunger. The treatment includes changes in diet, oral medications, and in some cases, daily injections of insulin.


Diabetes mellitus is a chronic disease that causes serious health complications including renal (kidney) failure, heart disease, stroke, and blindness. Approximately 17 million Americans have diabetes. Unfortunately, as many as one-half are unaware they have it.


Every cell in the human body needs energy in order to function. The body's primary energy source is glucose, a simple sugar resulting from the digestion of foods containing carbohydrates (sugars and starches). Glucose from the digested food circulates in the blood as a ready energy source for any cells that need it. Insulin is a hormone or chemical produced by cells in the pancreas, an organ located behind the stomach. Insulin bonds to a receptor site on the outside of cell and acts like a key to open a doorway into the cell through which glucose can enter. Some of the glucose can be converted to concentrated energy sources like glycogen or fatty acids and saved for later use. When there is not enough insulin produced or when the doorway no longer recognizes the insulin key, glucose stays in the blood rather entering the cells.
The body will attempt to dilute the high level of glucose in the blood, a condition called hyperglycemia, by drawing water out of the cells and into the bloodstream in an effort to dilute the sugar and excrete it in the urine. It is not unusual for people with undiagnosed diabetes to be constantly thirsty, drink large quantities of water, and urinate frequently as their bodies try to get rid of the extra glucose. This creates high levels of glucose in the urine.
At the same time that the body is trying to get rid of glucose from the blood, the cells are starving for glucose and sending signals to the body to eat more food, thus making patients extremely hungry. To provide energy for the starving cells, the body also tries to convert fats and proteins to glucose. The breakdown of fats and proteins for energy causes acid compounds called ketones to form in the blood. Ketones also will be excreted in the urine. As ketones build up in the blood, a condition called ketoacidosis can occur. This condition can be life threatening if left untreated, leading to coma and death.

Types of diabetes mellitus

Type I diabetes, sometimes called juvenile diabetes, begins most commonly in childhood or adolescence. In this form of diabetes, the body produces little or no insulin. It is characterized by a sudden onset and occurs more frequently in populations descended from Northern European countries (Finland, Scotland, Scandinavia) than in those from Southern European countries, the Middle East, or Asia. In the United States, approximately three people in 1,000 develop Type I diabetes. This form also is called insulin-dependent diabetes because people who develop this type need to have daily injections of insulin.
Brittle diabetics are a subgroup of Type I where patients have frequent and rapid swings of blood sugar levels between hyperglycemia (a condition where there is too much glucose or sugar in the blood) and hypoglycemia (a condition where there are abnormally low levels of glucose or sugar in the blood). These patients may require several injections of different types of insulin during the day to keep the blood sugar level within a fairly normal range.
The more common form of diabetes, Type II, occurs in approximately 3-5% of Americans under 50 years of age, and increases to 10-15% in those over 50. More than 90% of the diabetics in the United States are Type II diabetics. Sometimes called age-onset or adult-onset diabetes, this form of diabetes occurs most often in people who are overweight and who do not exercise. It is also more common in people of Native American, Hispanic, and African-American descent. People who have migrated to Western cultures from East India, Japan, and Australian Aboriginal cultures also are more likely to develop Type II diabetes than those who remain in their original countries.
Type II is considered a milder form of diabetes because of its slow onset (sometimes developing over the course of several years) and because it usually can be controlled with diet and oral medication. The consequences of uncontrolled and untreated Type II diabetes, however, are the just as serious as those for Type I. This form is also called noninsulin-dependent diabetes, a term that is somewhat misleading. Many people with Type II diabetes can control the condition with diet and oral medications, however, insulin injections are sometimes necessary if treatment with diet and oral medication is not working.
Another form of diabetes called gestational diabetes can develop during pregnancy and generally resolves after the baby is delivered. This diabetic condition develops during the second or third trimester of pregnancy in about 2% of pregnancies. In 2004, incidence of gestational diabetes were reported to have increased 35% in 10 years. Children of women with gestational diabetes are more likely to be born prematurely, have hypoglycemia, or have severe jaundice at birth. The condition usually is treated by diet, however, insulin injections may be required. These women who have diabetes during pregnancy are at higher risk for developing Type II diabetes within 5-10 years.
Diabetes also can develop as a result of pancreatic disease, alcoholism, malnutrition, or other severe illnesses that stress the body.

Causes and symptoms


The causes of diabetes mellitus are unclear, however, there seem to be both hereditary (genetic factors passed on in families) and environmental factors involved. Research has shown that some people who develop diabetes have common genetic markers. In Type I diabetes, the immune system, the body's defense system against infection, is believed to be triggered by a virus or another microorganism that destroys cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. In Type II diabetes, age, obesity, and family history of diabetes play a role.
In Type II diabetes, the pancreas may produce enough insulin, however, cells have become resistant to the insulin produced and it may not work as effectively. Symptoms of Type II diabetes can begin so gradually that a person may not know that he or she has it. Early signs are lethargy, extreme thirst, and frequent urination. Other symptoms may include sudden weight loss, slow wound healing, urinary tract infections, gum disease, or blurred vision. It is not unusual for Type II diabetes to be detected while a patient is seeing a doctor about another health concern that is actually being caused by the yet undiagnosed diabetes.
Individuals who are at high risk of developing Type II diabetes mellitus include people who:
  • are obese (more than 20% above their ideal body weight)
  • have a relative with diabetes mellitus
  • belong to a high-risk ethnic population (African-American, Native American, Hispanic, or Native Hawaiian)
  • have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes or have delivered a baby weighing more than 9 lbs (4 kg)
  • have high blood pressure (140/90 mmHg or above)
  • have a high density lipoprotein cholesterol level less than or equal to 35 mg/dL and/or a triglyceride level greater than or equal to 250 mg/dL
  • have had impaired glucose tolerance or impaired fasting glucose on previous testing
Several common medications can impair the body's use of insulin, causing a condition known as secondary diabetes. These medications include treatments for high blood pressure (furosemide, clonidine, and thiazide diuretics), drugs with hormonal activity (oral contraceptives, thyroid hormone, progestins, and glucocorticorids), and the anti-inflammation drug indomethacin. Several drugs that are used to treat mood disorders (such as anxiety and depression) also can impair glucose absorption. These drugs include haloperidol, lithium carbonate, phenothiazines, tricyclic antidepressants, and adrenergic agonists. Other medications that can cause diabetes symptoms include isoniazid, nicotinic acid, cimetidine, and heparin. A 2004 study found that low levels of the essential mineral chromium in the body may be linked to increased risk for diseases associated with insulin resistance.


Symptoms of diabetes can develop suddenly (over days or weeks) in previously healthy children or adolescents, or can develop gradually (over several years) in overweight adults over the age of 40. The classic symptoms include feeling tired and sick, frequent urination, excessive thirst, excessive hunger, and weight loss.
Ketoacidosis, a condition due to starvation or uncontrolled diabetes, is common in Type I diabetes. Ketones are acid compounds that form in the blood when the body breaks down fats and proteins. Symptoms include abdominal pain, vomiting, rapid breathing, extreme lethargy, and drowsiness. Patients with ketoacidosis will also have a sweet breath odor. Left untreated, this condition can lead to coma and death.
With Type II diabetes, the condition may not become evident until the patient presents for medical treatment for some other condition. A patient may have heart disease, chronic infections of the gums and urinary tract, blurred vision, numbness in the feet and legs, or slow-healing wounds. Women may experience genital itching.


Diabetes is suspected based on symptoms. Urine tests and blood tests can be used to confirm a diagnose of diabetes based on the amount of glucose found. Urine can also detect ketones and protein in the urine that may help diagnose diabetes and assess how well the kidneys are functioning. These tests also can be used to monitor the disease once the patient is on a standardized diet, oral medications, or insulin.

Urine tests

Clinistix and Diastix are paper strips or dipsticks that change color when dipped in urine. The test strip is compared to a chart that shows the amount of glucose in the urine based on the change in color. The level of glucose in the urine lags behind the level of glucose in the blood. Testing the urine with a test stick, paper strip, or tablet that changes color when sugar is present is not as accurate as blood testing, however it can give a fast and simple reading.
Ketones in the urine can be detected using similar types of dipstick tests (Acetest or Ketostix). Ketoacidosis can be a life-threatening situation in Type I diabetics, so having a quick and simple test to detect ketones can assist in establishing a diagnosis sooner.
Another dipstick test can determine the presence of protein or albumin in the urine. Protein in the urine can indicate problems with kidney function and can be used to track the development of renal failure. A more sensitive test for urine protein uses radioactively tagged chemicals to detect microalbuminuria, small amounts of protein in the urine, that may not show up on dipstick tests.

Blood tests

FASTING GLUCOSE TEST. Blood is drawn from a vein in the patient's arm after a period at least eight hours when the patient has not eaten, usually in the morning before breakfast. The red blood cells are separated from the sample and the amount of glucose is measured in the remaining plasma. A plasma level of 7.8 mmol/L (200 mg/L) or greater can indicate diabetes. The fasting glucose test is usually repeated on another day to confirm the results.
POSTPRANDIAL GLUCOSE TEST. Blood is taken right after the patient has eaten a meal.
ORAL GLUCOSE TOLERANCE TEST. Blood samples are taken from a vein before and after a patient drinks a thick, sweet syrup of glucose and other sugars. In a non-diabetic, the level of glucose in the blood goes up immediately after the drink and then decreases gradually as insulin is used by the body to metabolize, or absorb, the sugar. In a diabetic, the glucose in the blood goes up and stays high after drinking the sweetened liquid. A plasma glucose level of 11.1 mmol/L (200 mg/dL) or higher at two hours after drinking the syrup and at one other point during the two-hour test period confirms the diagnosis of diabetes.
A diagnosis of diabetes is confirmed if there are symptoms of diabetes and a plasma glucose level of at least 11.1 mmol/L, a fasting plasma glucose level of at least 7 mmol/L; or a two-hour plasma glucose level of at least 11.1 mmol/L during an oral glucose tolerance test.
Home blood glucose monitoring kits are available so patients with diabetes can monitor their own levels. A small needle or lancet is used to prick the finger and a drop of blood is collected and analyzed by a monitoring device. Some patients may test their blood glucose levels several times during a day and use this information to adjust their doses of insulin.


There is currently no cure for diabetes. The condition, however, can be managed so that patients can live a relatively normal life. Treatment of diabetes focuses on two goals: keeping blood glucose within normal range and preventing the development of long-term complications. Careful monitoring of diet, exercise, and blood glucose levels are as important as the use of insulin or oral medications in preventing complications of diabetes. In 2003, the American Diabetes Association updated its Standards of Care for the management of diabetes. These standards help manage health care providers in the most recent recommendations for diagnosis and treatment of the disease.

Dietary changes

Diet and moderate exercise are the first treatments implemented in diabetes. For many Type II diabetics, weight loss may be an important goal in helping them to control their diabetes. A well-balanced, nutritious diet provides approximately 50-60% of calories from carbohydrates, approximately 10-20% of calories from protein, and less than 30% of calories from fat. The number of calories required by an individual depends on age, weight, and activity level. The calorie intake also needs to be distributed over the course of the entire day so surges of glucose entering the blood system are kept to a minimum.
Keeping track of the number of calories provided by different foods can become complicated, so patients usually are advised to consult a nutritionist or dietitian. An individualized, easy to manage diet plan can be set up for each patient. Both the American Diabetes Association and the American Dietetic Association recommend diets based on the use of food exchange lists. Each food exchange contains a known amount of calories in the form of protein, fat, or carbohydrate. A patient's diet plan will consist of a certain number of exchanges from each food category (meat or protein, fruits, breads and starches, vegetables, and fats) to be eaten at meal times and as snacks. Patients have flexibility in choosing which foods they eat as long as they stick with the number of exchanges prescribed.
For many Type II diabetics, weight loss is an important factor in controlling their condition. The food exchange system, along with a plan of moderate exercise, can help them lose excess weight and improve their overall health.

Oral medications

Oral medications are available to lower blood glucose in Type II diabetics. In 1990, 23.4 outpatient prescriptions for oral antidiabetic agents were dispensed. By 2001, the number had increased to 91.8 million prescriptions. Oral antidiabetic agents accounted for more than $5 billion dollars in worldwide retail sales per year in the early twenty-first century and were the fastest-growing segment of diabetes drugs. The drugs first prescribed for Type II diabetes are in a class of compounds called sulfonylureas and include tolbutamide, tolazamide, acetohexamide, and chlorpropamide. Newer drugs in the same class are now available and include glyburide, glimeperide, and glipizide. How these drugs work is not well understood, however, they seem to stimulate cells of the pancreas to produce more insulin. New medications that are available to treat diabetes include metformin, acarbose, and troglitizone. The choice of medication depends in part on the individual patient profile. All drugs have side effects that may make them inappropriate for particular patients. Some for example, may stimulate weight gain or cause stomach irritation, so they may not be the best treatment for someone who is already overweight or who has stomach ulcers. Others, like metformin, have been shown to have positive effects such as reduced cardiovascular mortality, but but increased risk in other situations. While these medications are an important aspect of treatment for Type II diabetes, they are not a substitute for a well planned diet and moderate exercise. Oral medications have not been shown effective for Type I diabetes, in which the patient produces little or no insulin.
Constant advances are being made in development of new oral medications for persons with diabetes. In 2003, a drug called Metaglip combining glipizide and metformin was approved in a dingle tablet. Along with diet and exercise, the drug was used as initial therapy for Type 2 diabetes. Another drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) combines metformin and rosiglitazone (Avandia), a medication that increases muscle cells' sensitivity to insulin. It is marketed under the name Avandamet. So many new drugs are under development that it is best to stay in touch with a physician for the latest information; physicians can find the best drug, diet and exercise program to fit an individual patient's need.


Patients with Type I diabetes need daily injections of insulin to help their bodies use glucose. The amount and type of insulin required depends on the height, weight, age, food intake, and activity level of the individual diabetic patient. Some patients with Type II diabetes may need to use insulin injections if their diabetes cannot be controlled with diet, exercise, and oral medication. Injections are given subcutaneously, that is, just under the skin, using a small needle and syringe. Injection sites can be anywhere on the body where there is looser skin, including the upper arm, abdomen, or upper thigh.
Purified human insulin is most commonly used, however, insulin from beef and pork sources also are available. Insulin may be given as an injection of a single dose of one type of insulin once a day. Different types of insulin can be mixed and given in one dose or split into two or more doses during a day. Patients who require multiple injections over the course of a day may be able to use an insulin pump that administers small doses of insulin on demand. The small battery-operated pump is worn outside the body and is connected to a needle that is inserted into the abdomen. Pumps can be programmed to inject small doses of insulin at various times during the day, or the patient may be able to adjust the insulin doses to coincide with meals and exercise.
Regular insulin is fast-acting and starts to work within 15-30 minutes, with its peak glucose-lowering effect about two hours after it is injected. Its effects last for about four to six hours. NPH (neutral protamine Hagedorn) and Lente insulin are intermediate-acting, starting to work within one to three hours and lasting up to 18-26 hours. Ultra-lente is a long-acting form of insulin that starts to work within four to eight hours and lasts 28-36 hours.
Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, can be caused by too much insulin, too little food (or eating too late to coincide with the action of the insulin), alcohol consumption, or increased exercise. A patient with symptoms of hypoglycemia may be hungry, cranky, confused, and tired. The patient may become sweaty and shaky. Left untreated, the patient can lose consciousness or have a seizure. This condition is sometimes called an insulin reaction and should be treated by giving the patient something sweet to eat or drink like a candy, sugar cubes, juice, or another high sugar snack.


Transplantation of a healthy pancreas into a diabetic patient is a successful treatment, however, this transplant is usually done only if a kidney transplant is performed at the same time. Although a pancreas transplant is possible, it is not clear if the potential benefits outweigh the risks of the surgery and drug therapy needed.

Alternative treatment

Since diabetes can be life-threatening if not properly managed, patients should not attempt to treat this condition without medicial supervision. A variety of alternative therapies can be helpful in managing the symptoms of diabetes and supporting patients with the disease. Acupuncture can help relieve the pain associated with diabetic neuropathy by stimulation of cetain points. A qualified practitioner should be consulted. Herbal remedies also may be helpful in managing diabetes. Although there is no herbal substitute for insulin, some herbs may help adjust blood sugar levels or manage other diabetic symptoms. Some options include:
  • fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) has been shown in some studies to reduce blood insulin and glucose levels while also lowering cholesterol
  • bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) may lower blood glucose levels, as well as helping to maintain healthy blood vessels
  • garlic (Allium sativum) may lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels
  • onions (Allium cepa) may help lower blood glucose levels by freeing insulin to metabolize them
  • cayenne pepper (Capsicum frutescens) can help relieve pain in the peripheral nerves (a type of diabetic neuropathy)
  • gingko (Gingko biloba) may maintain blood flow to the retina, helping to prevent diabetic retinopathy
Any therapy that lowers stress levels also can be useful in treating diabetes by helping to reduce insulin requirements. Among the alternative treatments that aim to lower stress are hypnotherapy, biofeedback, and meditation.


Uncontrolled diabetes is a leading cause of blindness, end-stage renal disease, and limb amputations. It also doubles the risks of heart disease and increases the risk of stroke. Eye problems including cataracts, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy also are more common in diabetics.
Diabetic peripheral neuropathy is a condition where nerve endings, particularly in the legs and feet, become less sensitive. Diabetic foot ulcers are a particular problem since the patient does not feel the pain of a blister, callous, or other minor injury. Poor blood circulation in the legs and feet contribute to delayed wound healing. The inability to sense pain along with the complications of delayed wound healing can result in minor injuries, blisters, or callouses becoming infected and difficult to treat. In cases of severe infection, the infected tissue begins to break down and rot away. The most serious consequence of this condition is the need for amputation of toes, feet, or legs due to severe infection.
Heart disease and kidney disease are common complications of diabetes. Long-term complications may include the need for kidney dialysis or a kidney transplant due to kidney failure.
Babies born to diabetic mothers have an increased risk of birth defects and distress at birth.


Research continues on diabetes prevention and improved detection of those at risk for developing diabetes. While the onset of Type I diabetes is unpredictable, the risk of developing Type II diabetes can be reduced by maintaining ideal weight and exercising regularly. The physical and emotional stress of surgery, illness, pregnancy, and alcoholism can increase the risks of diabetes, so maintaining a healthy lifestyle is critical to preventing the onset of Type II diabetes and preventing further complications of the disease.

Key terms

Cataract — A condition where the lens of the eye becomes cloudy.
Diabetic peripheral neuropathy — A condition where the sensitivity of nerves to pain, temperature, and pressure is dulled, particularly in the legs and feet.
Diabetic retinopathy — A condition where the tiny blood vessels to the retina, the tissues that sense light at the back of the eye, are damaged, leading to blurred vision, sudden blindness, or black spots, lines, or flashing lights in the field of vision.
Glaucoma — A condition where pressure within the eye causes damage to the optic nerve, which sends visual images to the brain.
Hyperglycemia — A condition where there is too much glucose or sugar in the blood.
Hypoglycemia — A condition where there is too little glucose or sugar in the blood.
Insulin — A hormone or chemical produced by the pancreas, insulin is needed by cells of the body in order to use glucose (sugar), the body's main source of energy.
Ketoacidosis — A condition due to starvation or uncontrolled Type I diabetes. Ketones are acid compounds that form in the blood when the body breaks down fats and proteins. Symptoms include abdominal pain, vomiting, rapid breathing, extreme tiredness, and drowsiness.
Kidney dialysis — A process where blood is filtered through a dialysis machine to remove waste products that would normally be removed by the kidneys. The filtered blood is then circulated back into the patient. This process also is called renal dialysis.
Pancreas — A gland located behind the stomach that produces insulin.



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American Diabetes Association. 1701 North Beauregard Street, Alexandria, VA 22311. (800) 342-2383. http://www.diabetes.org.
American Dietetic Association. 216 W. Jackson Blvd., Chicago, IL 60606-6995. (312) 899-0040. http://www.eatright.org.
Juvenile Diabetes Foundation. 120 Wall St., 19th Floor, New York, NY 10005. (800) 533-2873. http://www.jdf.org.
National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse. 1 Information Way, Bethesda, MD 20892-3560. (800) 860-8747. Ndic@info.niddk.nih.gov. http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health/diabetes/ndic.htm.


Centers for Disease Control. 〈http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/ddt/ddthome.htm〉.
"Insulin-Dependent Diabetes." National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. National Institutes of Health, NIH Publication No.94-2098.
"Noninsulin-Dependent Diabetes." National Institute of Diabetesand Digestive and Kidney Diseases. National Institutes of Health, NIH Publication No.92-241.


a general term referring to any of various disorders characterized by excessive urination (polyuria); when used alone, the term refers to diabetes mellitus. (See Atlas 4, Part D).
brittle diabetes diabetes that is difficult to control, characterized by unexplained oscillation between hypoglycemia and diabetic ketoacidosis. (This term was formerly much used, but it is not a classification used by the World Health Organization or the American Diabetes Association.)
bronze diabetes hemochromatosis.
central diabetes insipidus a metabolic disorder due to injury of the neurohypophyseal system, which results in a deficient quantity of antidiuretic hormone (ADH or vasopressin) being released or produced, resulting in failure of tubular reabsorption of water in the kidney. As a consequence, there is the passage of a large amount of urine having a low specific gravity, and great thirst; it is often attended by voracious appetite, loss of strength, and emaciation. Diabetes insipidus may be acquired through infection, neoplasm, trauma, or radiation injuries to the posterior lobe of the pituitary gland or it may be inherited or idiopathic.

Treatment of pituitary diabetes insipidus consists of administration of vasopressin. A synthetic analogue of vasopressin (DDAVP) can be administered as a nasal spray, providing antidiuretic activity for 8 to 20 hours, and is currently the drug of choice. Patient care includes instruction in self-administration of the drug, its expected action, symptoms that indicate a need to adjust the dosage, and the importance of follow-up visits. Patients with this condition should wear some form of medical identification at all times.
gestational diabetes diabetes mellitus with onset or first recognition during pregnancy, usually during the second or third trimester. In some cases mild, undetected glucose intolerance was present before pregnancy. It often disappears after the end of the pregnancy, but many women with this condition develop permanent diabetes mellitus in later life. Although the disordered carbohydrate metabolism is usually mild, prompt detection and treatment are necessary to avoid fetal and neonatal morbidity and mortality.
maturity-onset diabetes of youth (MODY) an autosomal dominant variety of type 2 diabetes mellitus characterized by onset in late adolescence or early adulthood.
diabetes mel´litus a broadly applied term used to denote a complex group of syndromes that have in common a disturbance in the oxidation and utilization of glucose, which may be secondary to a malfunction of the beta cells of the pancreas, whose function is the production and release of insulin. Because insulin is involved in the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, diabetes is not limited to a disturbance of glucose homeostasis alone. Insulin resistance may also sometimes play a role in the etiology of diabetes. 

The American Diabetes Association sponsored an international panel in 1995 to review the literature and recommend updates of the classification of diabetes mellitus. The definitions and descriptions that follow are drawn from the Report of the Expert Committee on the Diagnosis and Classification of Diabetes Mellitus. The report was first approved in 1997 and modified in 1999. Although other terms are found in older literature and remain in use, their use in current clinical practice is inappropriate. Epidemiologic and research studies are facilitated by use of a common language.

The Expert Committee notes that most cases of diabetes fall into two broad categories, which are called Type 1 and Type 2. There are also other specific types, such as gestational diabetes and impaired glucose homeostasis. See table for definitions of types of diabetes mellitus.
Incidence and Prevalence. It has been estimated that slightly over 6 per cent of the population is affected by some form of diabetes, or 17 million people in the USA and 1.2 to 1.4 million in Canada; many of these individuals are not diagnosed. Diabetes is ranked third as a cause of death, although the life span of patients with diabetes has increased due to improved methods of detection and better management. There is no cure for diabetes at the present time, but enormous strides have been made in the control of the disease. The patient must understand the importance of compliance with the entire treatment plan, including diet, exercise, and in some cases medication. The patient with diabetes is at increased risk for cardiovascular disease, renal failure, neuropathies, and diabetic retinopathy. Research studies such as the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial have indicated that tight control of blood glucose levels resulted in the delay or prevention of retinopathy, nephropathy, and neuropathy.
Diagnosis. The most common diagnostic tests for diabetes are chemical analyses of the blood such as the fasting plasma glucose. Capillary blood glucose monitoring can be used for screening large segments of the population. Portable equipment is available and only one drop of blood from the fingertip or earlobe is necessary. Capillary blood glucose levels have largely replaced analysis of the urine for glucose. Testing for urinary glucose can be problematic as the patient may have a high renal threshold, which would lead to a negative reading for urinary glucose when in fact the blood glucose level was high.
Clinical Manifestations. Diabetes mellitus can present a wide variety of symptoms, from none at all to profound ketosis and coma. If the disease manifests itself late in life, patients may not know they have it until it is discovered during a routine examination, or when the symptoms of chronic vascular disease, insidious renal failure, or impaired vision cause them to seek medical help.

The typical symptoms of diabetes mellitus are the three “polys:” polyuria, polydipsia, and polyphagia. Because of insulin deficiency, the assimilation and storage of glucose in muscle adipose tissues, and the liver is greatly diminished. This produces an accumulation of glucose in the blood and creates an increase in its osmolarity. In response to this increased osmotic pressure there is depletion of intracellular water and osmotic diuresis. The water loss creates intense thirst and increased urination. The increased appetite (polyphagia) is not as clearly understood. It may be the result of the body's effort to increase its supply of energy foods even though eating more carbohydrates in the absence of sufficient insulin does not meet the energy needs of the cells.

Fatigue and muscle weakness occur because the glucose needed for energy simply is not metabolized properly. Weight loss in type 1 diabetes patients occurs partly because of the loss of body fluid and partly because in the absence of sufficient insulin the body begins to metabolize its own proteins and stored fat. The oxidation of fats is incomplete, however, and the fatty acids are converted into ketone bodies. When the kidney is no longer able to handle the excess ketones the patient develops ketosis. The overwhelming presence of the strong organic acids in the blood lowers the pH and leads to severe and potentially fatal ketoacidosis.

The metabolism of body protein when sufficient amounts of insulin are not available causes an elevated blood urea nitrogen. This first occurs because the nitrogen component of protein is discarded in the blood when the body metabolizes its own proteins to obtain the glucose it needs.

Persons with diabetes are prone to infection, delayed healing, and vascular disease. The ease with which poorly controlled diabetic persons develop an infection is thought to be due in part to decreased chemotaxis of leukocytes, abnormal phagocyte function, and diminished blood supply because of atherosclerotic changes in the blood vessels. An impaired blood supply means a deficit in the protective defensive cells transported in the blood. Excessive glucose allows organisms to grow out of control.

Another manifestation of diabetes mellitus is visual disturbance due to increased osmolarity of the blood and accumulation of fluid in the eyeball, which changes its shape. Once the diabetes is under control, visual problems should abate. Persistent vaginitis and urinary tract infection also may be symptoms of diabetes in females.
Sequelae. The long-term consequences of diabetes mellitus can involve both large and small blood vessels throughout the body. That in large vessels is usually seen in the coronary arteries, cerebral arteries, and arteries of the lower extremities and can eventually lead to myocardial infarction, stroke, or gangrene of the feet and legs. atherosclerosis is far more likely to occur in persons of any age who have diabetes than it is in other people. This predisposition is not clearly understood. Some believe that diabetics inherit the tendency to develop severe atherosclerosis as well as an aberration in glucose metabolism, and that the two are not necessarily related. There is strong evidence to substantiate the claim that optimal control will mitigate the effects of diabetes on the microvasculature, particularly in the young and middle-aged who are at greatest risk for developing complications involving the arterioles. Pathologic changes in the small blood vessels serving the kidney lead to nephrosclerosis, pyelonephritis, and other disorders that eventually result in renal failure. Many of the deaths of persons with type 1 diabetes are caused by renal failure.

Visual impairment and blindness are common sequelae of uncontrolled diabetes. The three most frequently occurring problems involving the eye are diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, and glaucoma. photocoagulation of destructive lesions of the retina with laser beams can be used to delay further progress of pathologic changes and thereby preserve sight in the affected eye.

Another area of pathologic changes associated with diabetes mellitus is the nervous system (diabetic neuropathy), particularly in the peripheral nerves of the lower extremities. The patient typically experiences a “stocking-type” anesthesia beginning about 10 years after the onset of the disease. There may eventually be almost total anesthesia of the affected part with the potential for serious injury to the part without the patient being aware of it. In contrast, some patients experience debilitating pain and hyperesthesia, with loss of deep tendon reflexes.

Other problems related to the destruction of nerve tissue are the result of autonomic nervous system involvement. These include impotence, orthostatic hypotension, delayed gastric emptying, diarrhea or constipation, and asymptomatic retention of urine in the bladder.

Although age of onset and length of the disease process are related to the frequency with which vascular, renal, and neurologic complications develop, there are some patients who remain relatively free of sequelae even into the later years of their lives. Because diabetes mellitus is not a single disease but rather a complex constellation of syndromes, each patient has a unique response to the disease process.
Management. There is no cure for diabetes; the goal of treatment is to maintain blood glucose and lipid levels within normal limits and to prevent complications. In general, good control is achieved when the following occur: fasting plasma glucose is within a specific range (set by health care providers and the individual), glycosylated hemoglobin tests show that blood sugar levels have stayed within normal limits from one testing period to the next, the patient's weight is normal, blood lipids remain within normal limits, and the patient has a sense of health and well-being.

The protocol for therapy is determined by the type of diabetes; patients with either type 1 or type 2 must pay attention to their diet and exercise regimens. Insulin therapy may be prescribed for patients with type 2 diabetes as well as any who are dependent on insulin. In most cases, the type 2 diabetes patient can be treated effectively by reducing caloric intake, maintaining target weight, and promoting physical exercise.

Diet. In general, the diabetic diet is geared toward providing adequate nutrition with sufficient calories to maintain normal body weight; the intake of food is adjusted so that blood sugar and serum cholesterol levels are kept within acceptable limits. Overweight diabetic patients should limit caloric intake until target weight is achieved. In persons with type 2 diabetes this usually results in marked improvement and may eliminate the need for drugs such as oral hypoglycemic agents.

The patient, physician, nurse, and dietician must carefully evaluate the patient's life style, nutritional needs, and ability to comply with the proposed dietary prescription. There are a variety of meal planning systems that can be used by the patient with diabetes; each has benefits and drawbacks that need to be evaluated in order to maximize compliance. Two of the most frequently used ones are the exchange system (see accompanying table) and the carbohydrate counting system.

In the exchange system, foods are divided into six food groups (starch, meat, vegetable, fruit, milk, and fat) and the patient is taught to select items from each food group as ordered. Items in each group may be exchanged for each other in specified portions. The patient should avoid concentrated sweets and should increase fiber in the diet. Special dietetic foods are not necessary. Patient teaching should emphasize that a diabetic diet is a healthy diet that all members of the family can follow.

The carbohydrate counting system focuses on matching the unit of insulin to the total number of grams of carbohydrate in food eaten. This system is the most accurate method for calculating insulin to food intake.

It is especially important that persons with diabetes who are taking insulin not skip meals; they must also be sure to eat the prescribed amounts at the prescribed times during the day. Since the insulin-dependent diabetic needs to match food consumption to the available insulin, it is advantageous to increase the number of daily feedings by adding snacks between meals and at bedtime.

Exercise. A program of regular exercise gives anyone a sense of good health and well-being; for persons with diabetes it gives added benefits by helping to control blood glucose levels, promoting circulation to peripheral tissues, and strengthening the heart beat. In addition, there is evidence that exercise increases the number of insulin receptor sites on the surface of cells and thus facilitates the metabolism of glucose. Many specialists in diabetes consider exercise so important in the management of diabetes that they prescribe rather than suggest exercise.

Persons with diabetes who take insulin must be careful about indulging in unplanned exercise. Strenuous physical activity can rapidly lower their blood sugar and precipitate a hypoglycemic reaction. For a person whose blood glucose level is over 250 mg/dl, the advice would be not to exercise at all. At this range, the levels of insulin are too low and the body would have difficulty transporting glucose into exercising muscles. The result of exercise would be a rise in blood glucose levels.

Insulin Therapy. Exogenous insulin is given to patients with diabetes mellitus as a supplement to the insufficient amount of endogenous insulin that they produce. In some cases, this must make up for an absolute lack of insulin from the pancreas. Exogenous insulin is available in various types. It must be given by injection, usually subcutaneously, and because it is a potent drug, the dosage must be measured meticulously. Commonly, regular insulin, which is a fast-acting insulin with a short span of action, is mixed with one of the longer-acting insulins and both types are administered in one injection.

Human insulin (Humulin) is produced by recombinant DNA technology. This highly purified biosynthetic insulin reduces the incidence of allergic reactions and the changes in subcutaneous tissues (lipodystrophy) at sites of injection.

Recently, battery-operated insulin pumps have been developed that can be programmed to mimic normal insulin secretion more closely. A person wearing an insulin pump still must monitor blood sugar several times a day and adjust the dosage, and not all diabetic patients are motivated or suited to such vigilance. It is hoped that in the future an implantable or external pump system may be perfected, containing a glucose sensor. In response to data from the sensor the pump will automatically deliver insulin according to changing levels of blood glucose.

Oral Agents. Oral antidiabetic drugs (see hypoglycemic agents) are sometimes prescribed for patients with type 2 diabetes who cannot control their blood glucose with diet and exercise. These are not oral forms of insulin; they are sulfonylureas, chemically related to the sulfonamide antibiotics. Patients receiving them should be taught that the drug they are taking does not eliminate the need for a diet and exercise program. Only the prescribed dosage should be taken; it should never be increased to make up for dietary indiscretions or discontinued unless authorized by the physician.
Patient Education. Successful management of diabetes requires that the patient actively participate in and be committed to the regimen of care. The problem of poor control can cause serious or even deadly short-term and long-term complications, with devastating effects on the patient's longevity and sense of well being. There are many teaching aids available to help persons with diabetes understand their disease and comply with prescribed therapy. In general, a patient education program should include the following components:

1. Monitoring of blood glucose status. In the past, urine testing was an integral part of the management of diabetes, but it has largely been replaced in recent years by self monitoring of blood glucose. Reasons for this are that blood testing is more accurate, glucose in the urine shows up only after the blood sugar level is high, and individual renal thresholds vary greatly and can change when certain medications are taken. As a person grows older and the kidney is less able to eliminate sugar in the urine, the renal threshold rises and less sugar is spilled into the urine. The position statement of the American Diabetes Association on Tests of Glycemia in Diabetes notes that urine testing still plays a role in monitoring in type 1 and gestational diabetes, and in pregnancy with pre-existing diabetes, as a way to test for ketones. All people with diabetes should test for ketones during times of acute illness or stress and when blood glucose levels are consistently elevated.

2. Home glucose monitoring using either a visually read test or a digital readout of the glucose concentration in a drop of blood. Patients can usually learn to use the necessary equipment and perform finger sticks. They keep a daily record of findings and are taught to adjust insulin dosage accordingly. More recent glucose monitoring devices can draw blood from other locations on the body, such as the forearm.

3. Pathophysiology of diabetes mellitus, including functions of the pancreas and the long-term effects of uncontrolled diabetes.

4. Insulin administration (if appropriate), including types of insulin and syringes, rotation of sites of injection, injection techniques, and pump therapy instructions.

5. Signs and symptoms ofhyperglycemiaandhypoglycemia, and measures to take when they occur. (See accompanying table.) It is important for patients to become familiar with specific signs that are unique to themselves. Each person responds differently and may exhibit symptoms different from those experienced by others. It should be noted that the signs and symptoms may vary even within one individual. Thus it is vital that the person understand all reactions that could occur. When there is doubt, a simple blood glucose reading will determine the actions that should be taken.

6. Oral antidiabetic agents, including information about drug-drug interactions, proper administration, and potential side effects.

7. Personal hygiene and activities of daily living, including general skin care, foot care, treatment of minor injuries to avoid infection, a formal exercise program as well as exercise at school or at work, recreational activity, and travel.

8. Identification tag and card and needed medical information.

9. Information on what to do on “sick days” when nausea, vomiting, or respiratory infection can interfere with the usual meals and exercise.

10. Importance of keeping appointments and staying in touch with a health care provider for consultation and assessment. Periodic evaluation of the binding of glucose to hemoglobin (glycosylated hemoglobin or hemoglobin A1C testing) can give information about the effectiveness of the prescribed regimen and whether any changes need to be made. The ADA position statement on tests of glycemia in diabetes recommends routine testing for all patients with diabetes. It should be a part of the initial assessment of the patient, with subsequent measurements every three months to determine if the patient's metabolic control has been reached and maintained.
See illustration.
Complications of diabetes mellitus. From Damjanov, 2000.
nephrogenic diabetes insipidus a rare form caused by failure of the renal tubules to reabsorb water; there is excessive production of antidiuretic hormone but the tubules fail to respond to it. Characteristics include polyuria, extreme thirst, growth retardation, and developmental delay. The condition does not respond to exogenous vasopressin. It may be inherited as an X-linked trait or be acquired as a result of drug therapy or systemic disease.
pituitary diabetes insipidus central diabetes insipidus.

di·a·be·tes mel·li'·tus (DM),

a chronic metabolic disorder in which the use of carbohydrate is impaired and that of lipid and protein is enhanced. It is caused by an absolute or relative deficiency of insulin and is characterized, in more severe cases, by chronic hyperglycemia, glycosuria, water and electrolyte loss, ketoacidosis, and coma. Long-term complications include neuropathy, retinopathy, nephropathy, generalized degenerative changes in large and small blood vessels, and increased susceptibility to infection.
[L. sweetened with honey]

DM affects at least 16 million U.S. residents, ranks seventh as a cause of death in the United States, and costs the national economy over $100 billion yearly. The striking increase in the prevalence of DM in the U.S. during recent years has been linked to a rise in the prevalence of obesity. About 95% of those with DM have Type 2, in which the pancreatic beta cells retain some insulin-producing potential, and the rest have Type 1, in which exogenous insulin is required for long-term survival. In Type 1 DM, which typically causes symptoms before age 25, an autoimmune process is responsible for beta cell destruction. Type 2 DM is characterized by insulin resistance in peripheral tissues as well as a defect in insulin secretion by beta cells. Insulin regulates carbohydrate metabolism by mediating the rapid transport of glucose and amino acids from the circulation into muscle and other tissue cells, by promoting the storage of glucose in liver cells as glycogen, and by inhibiting gluconeogenesis. The normal stimulus for the release of insulin from the pancreas is a rise in the concentration of glucose in circulating blood, which typically occurs within a few minutes after a meal. When such a rise elicits an appropriate insulin response, so that the blood level of glucose falls again as it is taken into cells, glucose tolerance is said to be normal. The central fact in DM is an impairment of glucose tolerance of such a degree as to threaten or impair health. Long recognized as an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease, DM is often associated with other risk factors, including disorders of lipid metabolism (elevation of very-low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and triglycerides and depression of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol), obesity, hypertension, and impairment of renal function. Sustained elevation of serum glucose and triglycerides aggravates the biochemical defect inherent in DM by impairing insulin secretion, insulin-mediated glucose uptake by cells, and hepatic regulation of glucose output. Long-term consequences of the diabetic state include macrovascular complications (premature or accelerated atherosclerosis with resulting coronary, cerebral, and peripheral vascular insufficiency) and microvascular complications (retinopathy, nephropathy, and neuropathy). It is estimated that half those with DM already have some complications when the diagnosis is made. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends screening for DM for people with risk factors such as obesity, age 45 years or older, family history of DM, or history of gestational diabetes. If screening yields normal results, it should be repeated every 3 years. The diagnosis of DM depends on measurement of plasma glucose concentration. The diagnosis is confirmed when any two measurements of plasma glucose performed on different days yield levels at or above established thresholds: in the fasting state, 126 mg/dL (7 mmol/L); 2 hours postprandially (after a 75-g oral glucose load) or at random, 200 mg/dL (11.1 mmol/L). A fasting plasma glucose of 100-125 mg/dL (5.5-6.9 mmol/L) or a 2-hour postprandial glucose of 140-199 mg/dL (7.8-11 mmol/L) is defined as impaired glucose tolerance. People with impaired glucose tolerance are at higher risk of developing DM within 10 years. For such people, lifestyle modification such as weight reduction and exercise may prevent or postpone the onset of frank DM. Current recommendations for the management of DM emphasize education and individualization of therapy. Controlled studies have shown that rigorous maintenance of plasma glucose levels as near to normal as possible at all times substantially reduces the incidence and severity of long-term complications, particularly microvascular complications. Such control involves limitation of dietary carbohydrate and saturated fat; monitoring of blood glucose, including self-testing by the patient and periodic determination of glycosylated hemoglobin; and administration of insulin (particularly in Type 1 DM), drugs that stimulate endogenous insulin production (in Type 2 DM), or both. The ADA recommends inclusion of healthful carbohydrate-containing foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat milk in a diabetic diet. Restriction of dietary fat to less than 10% of total calories is recommended for people with diabetes, as for the general population. Further restriction may be appropriate for those with heart disease or elevated cholesterol or triglyceride levels. The ADA advises that high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets have no particular merit in long-term weight control or in maintenance of a normal plasma glucose level in DM. Pharmaceutical agents developed during the 1990s improve control of DM by enhancing responsiveness of cells to insulin, counteracting insulin resistance, and reducing postprandial carbohydrate absorption. Tailor-made insulin analogues produced by recombinant DNA technology (for example, lispro, aspart, and glargine insulins) have broadened the range of pharmacologic properties and treatment options available. Their use improves both short-term and long-term control of plasma glucose and is associated with fewer episodes of hypoglycemia. see also insulin resistance

diabetes mellitus

(mə-lī′təs, mĕl′ĭ-)

diabetes mellitus (DM)

a complex disorder of carbohydrate, fat, and protein metabolism that is primarily a result of a deficiency or complete lack of insulin secretion by the beta cells of the pancreas or resistance to insulin. The disease is often familial but may be acquired, as in Cushing's syndrome, as a result of the administration of excessive glucocorticoid. The various forms of diabetes have been organized into categories developed by the Expert Committee on the Diagnosis and Classification of Diabetes Mellitus of the American Diabetes Association. Type 1 diabetes mellitus in this classification scheme includes patients with diabetes caused by an autoimmune process, dependent on insulin to prevent ketosis. This group was previously called type I, insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, juvenile-onset diabetes, brittle diabetes, or ketosis-prone diabetes. Patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus are those previously designated as having type II, non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, maturity-onset diabetes, adult-onset diabetes, ketosis-resistant diabetes, or stable diabetes. Those with gestational diabetes mellitus are women in whom glucose intolerance develops during pregnancy. Other types of diabetes are associated with a pancreatic disease, hormonal changes, adverse effects of drugs, or genetic or other anomalies. A fourth subclass, the impaired glucose tolerance group, also called prediabetes, includes persons whose blood glucose levels are abnormal although not sufficiently above the normal range to be diagnosed as having diabetes. Approximately 95% of the 18 million diabetes patients in the United States are classified as type 2, and more than 70% of those patients are obese. About 1.3 million new cases of diabetes mellitus are diagnosed in the United States each year. Contributing factors to the development of diabetes are heredity; obesity; sedentary life-style; high-fat, low-fiber diets; hypertension; and aging. See also impaired glucose tolerance, potential abnormality of glucose tolerance, previous abnormality of glucose tolerance.
observations The onset of type 1 diabetes mellitus is sudden in children. Type 2 diabetes often begins insidiously. Characteristically the course is progressive and includes polyuria, polydipsia, weight loss, polyphagia, hyperglycemia, and glycosuria. The eyes, kidneys, nervous system, skin, and circulatory system may be affected by the long-term complications of either type of diabetes; infections are common; and atherosclerosis often develops. In type 1 diabetes mellitus, when no endogenous insulin is being secreted, ketoacidosis is a constant danger. The diagnosis is confirmed by fasting plasma glucose and history.
interventions The goal of treatment is to maintain insulin glucose homeostasis. Type 1 diabetes is controlled by insulin, meal planning, and exercise. The Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT), completed in mid-1993, demonstrated that tight control of blood glucose levels (i.e., frequent monitoring and maintenance at as close to normal as possible to the level of nondiabetics) significantly reduces complications such as eye disease, kidney disease, and nerve damage. Type 2 diabetes is controlled by meal planning; exercise; one or more oral agents, in combination with oral agents; and insulin. The results of the United Kingdom Prospective Diabetes Study, which involved more than 5000 people with newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes in the United Kingdom, were comparable to those of the DCCT where a relationship in microvascular complications. Stress of any kind may require medication adjustment in both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

diabetes mellitus

Endocrinology A chronic condition which affects ±10% of the general population, characterized by ↑ serum glucose and a relative or absolute ↓ in pancreatic insulin production, or ↓ tissue responsiveness to insulin; if not properly controlled, the excess glucose damages blood vessels of the eyes, kidneys, nerves, heart Types Insulin dependent–type I and non-insulin dependent–type II diabetes Symptoms type 1 DM is associated with ↑ urine output, thirst, fatigue, and weight loss (despite an ↑ appetite), N&V; type 2 DM is associated with, in addition, non-healing ulcers, oral and bladder infections, blurred vision, paresthesias in the hands and feet, and itching Cardiovascular MI, stoke Eyes Retinal damage, blindness Legs/feet Nonhealing ulcers, cuts leading to gangrene and amputation Kidneys HTN, renal failure Neurology Paresthesias, neuropathy Diagnosis Serum glucose above cut-off points after meals or when fasting; once therapy is begun, serum levels of glycosylated Hb are measured periodically to assess adequacy of glucose control Management Therapy reflects type of DM; metformin and triglitazone have equal and additive effects on glycemic control Prognosis A function of stringency of glucose control and presence of complications. See ABCD Trial, Brittle diabetes, Bronze diabetes, Chemical diabetes, Gestational diabetes, Insulin-dependent diabetes, Metformin, MODY diabetes, Nephrogenic diabetes insipidus, Non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, Pseudodiabetes, Secondary diabetes, Starvation diabetes, Troglitazone.
Diabetes mellitus–Type 1 vs Type 2
Finding Type 1 Type 2
% of diabetics  10%  90%
Age of onset Usually < 35  Usually > 40
Weight Not overweight Overweight
Speed of onset Often abrupt/acute Asymptomatic, slower onset
Clinical findings ↑ Thirst, urine production Poorly healing cuts, paresthesias
 appetite; rapid weight loss of hands/feet; recurring skin, oral,
 fatigue  infections
Lab findings Ketonuria

di·a·be·tes mel·li·tus

(DM) (dī-ă-bē'tēz me-lī'tŭs)
A metabolic disease in which carbohydrate use is reduced and that of lipid and protein enhanced; it is caused by an absolute or relative deficiency of insulin and is characterized, in more severe cases, by chronic hyperglycemia, glycosuria, water and electrolyte loss, ketoacidosis, and coma; long-term complications include neuropathy, retinopathy, nephropathy, generalized degenerative changes in large and small blood vessels, and increased susceptibility to infection.
See also: Type 1 diabetes, Type 2 diabetes
[L. sweetened with honey]
Enlarge picture
WELL-CONTROLLED DIABETES MELLITUS: Daily blood sugar abstracted from the records of a patient whose DM is well controlled (hemoglobin A1c=6.4). The average capillary blood glucose level is 104 mg/dL, and the standard deviation is 19. Sixty-five percent of the readings are between 90 and 140 mg/dL; the lowest blood sugar is 67 mg/dL (on April 15) and the highest is about 190 (on March 21).

diabetes mellitus

Abbreviation: DM
A chronic metabolic disorder marked by hyperglycemia. DM results either from failure of the pancreas to produce insulin (type 1 DM) or from insulin resistance, with inadequate insulin secretion to sustain normal metabolism (type 2 DM). Either type of DM may damage blood vessels, nerves, kidneys, the retina, and the developing fetus and the placenta during pregnancy. Type 1 or insulin-dependent DM has a prevalence of just 0.3 to 0.4%. Type 2 DM (formerly called adult-onset DM) has a prevalence in the general population of 6.6%. In some populations (such as older persons, Native Americans, African Americans, Pacific Islanders, Mexican Americans), it is present in nearly 20% of adults. Type 2 DM primarily affects obese middle-aged people with sedentary lifestyles, whereas type 1 DM usually occurs in children, most of whom are active and thin, although extremely obese children are now being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes as well. See: table; dawn phenomenon; insulin; insulin pump; insulin resistance; diabetic polyneuropathy; Somogyi phenomenon

Type 1 DM usually presents as an acute illness with dehydration and often diabetic ketoacidosis. Type 2 DM is often asymptomatic in its early years. The American Diabetes Association (1-800-DIABETES) estimates that more than 5 million Americans have type 2 DM without knowing it.


Type 1 DM is caused by autoimmune destruction of the insulin-secreting beta cells of the pancreas. The loss of these cells results in nearly complete insulin deficiency; without exogenous insulin, type 1 DM is rapidly fatal. Type 2 DM results partly from a decreased sensitivity of muscle cells to insulin-mediated glucose uptake and partly from a relative decrease in pancreatic insulin secretion.


Classic symptoms of DM are polyuria, polydipsia, and weight loss. In addition, patients with hyperglycemia often have blurred vision, increased food consumption (polyphagia), and generalized weakness. When a patient with type 1 DM loses metabolic control (such as during infections or periods of noncompliance with therapy), symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis occur. These may include nausea, vomiting, dizziness on arising, intoxication, delirium, coma, or death. Chronic complications of hyperglycemia include retinopathy and blindness, peripheral and autonomic neuropathies, glomerulosclerosis of the kidneys (with proteinuria, nephrotic syndrome, or end-stage renal failure), coronary and peripheral vascular disease, and reduced resistance to infections. Patients with DM often also sustain infected ulcerations of the feet, which may result in osteomyelitis and the need for amputation.


Several tests are helpful in identifying DM. These include tests of fasting plasma glucose levels, casual (randomly assessed) glucose levels, or glycosylated hemoglobin levels. Diabetes is currently established if patients have classic diabetic symptoms and if on two occasions fasting glucose levels exceed 126 mg/dL (> 7 mmol/L), random glucose levels exceed 200 mg/dL (11.1 mmol/L), or a 2-hr oral glucose tolerance test is 200 mg/dL or more. A hemoglobin A1c test that is more than two standard deviations above normal (6.5% or greater) is also diagnostic of the disease.


DM types 1 and 2 are both treated with specialized diets, regular exercise, intensive foot and eye care, and medications.

Patients with type 1 DM, unless they have had a pancreatic transplant, require insulin to live; intensive therapy with insulin to limit hyperglycemia (“tight control”) is more effective than conventional therapy in preventing the progression of serious microvascular complications such as kidney and retinal diseases. Intensive therapy consists of three or more doses of insulin injected or administered by infusion pump daily, with frequent self-monitoring of blood glucose levels as well as frequent changes in therapy as a result of contacts with health care professionals. Some negative aspects of intensive therapy include a three times more frequent occurrence of severe hypoglycemia, weight gain, and an adverse effect on serum lipid levels, i.e., a rise in total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides and a fall in HDL cholesterol. Participation in an intensive therapy program requires a motivated patient, but it can dramatically reduce eye, nerve, and renal complications compared to conventional therapy. See: insulin pump for illus.

Some patients with type 2 DM can control their disease with a calorically restricted diet (for instance 1600 to 1800 cal/day), regular aerobic exercise, and weight loss. Most patients, however, require the addition of some form of oral hypoglycemic drug or insulin. Oral agents to control DM include sulfonylurea drugs (such as glipizide), which increase pancreatic secretion of insulin; biguanides or thiazolidinediones (such as metformin or pioglitazone), which increase cellular sensitivity to insulin; or a-glucosidase inhibitors (such as acarbose), which decrease the absorption of carbohydrates from the gastrointestinal tract. Both types of diabetics also may be prescribed pramlintide (Symlin), a synthetic analog of human amylin, a hormone manufactured in the pancreatic beta cells. It enhances postprandial glucose control by slowing gastric emptying, decreasing postprandial glucagon concentrations, and regulating appetite and food intake; thus pramlintide is helpful for patients who do not achieve optimal glucose control with insulin and/or oral antidiabetic agents. When combinations of these agents fail to normalize blood glucose levels, insulin injections are added. Tight glucose control can reduce the patient’s risk of many of the complications of the disease. See: illustration

Prevention of Complications

Patients with DM should avoid tobacco, actively manage their serum lipid levels, and keep hypertension under optimal control. Failure to do so may result in a risk of atherosclerosis much higher than that of the general public. Other elements in care include receiving regular vaccinations, e.g., to prevent influenza and pneumococcal pneumonia).


Diabetes is a chronic disease whose symptoms can be ameliorated and life prolonged by proper therapy. The isolation and eventual production of insulin in 1922 by Canadian physicians F. G. Banting and C. H. Best made it possible to allow people with the disease to lead normal lives.

Patient care

The diabetic patient should learn to recognize symptoms of low blood sugar (such as confusion, sweats, and palpitations) and high blood sugar (such as, polyuria and polydipsia). When either condition results in hospitalization, vital signs, weight, fluid intake, urine output, and caloric intake are accurately documented. Serum glucose and urine ketone levels are evaluated. Chronic management of DM is also based on periodic measurement of glycosylated hemoglobin levels (HbA1c). Elevated levels of HbA1c suggest poor long-term glucose control. The effects of diabetes on other body systems (such as cerebrovascular, coronary artery, and peripheral vascular) should be regularly assessed. Patients should be evaluated regularly for retinal disease and visual impairment and peripheral and autonomic nervous system abnormalities, e.g., loss of sensation in the feet. The patient is observed for signs and symptoms of diabetic neuropathy, e.g., numbness or pain in the hands and feet, decreased vibratory sense, footdrop, and neurogenic bladder. The urine is checked for microalbumin or overt protein losses, an early indication of nephropathy. The combination of peripheral neuropathy and peripheral arterial disease results in changes in the skin and microvasculature that lead to ulcer formation on the feet and lower legs with poor healing. Approx. 45,000 lower-extremity diabetic amputations are performed in the U.S. each year. Many amputees have a second amputation within five years. Most of these amputations are preventable with regular foot care and examinations. Diabetic patients and their providers should look for changes in sensation to touch and vibration, the integrity of pulses, capillary refill, and the skin. All injuries, cuts, and blisters should be treated promptly. The patient should avoid constricting hose, slippers, shoes, and bed linens or walking barefoot. The patient with ulcerated or insensitive feet is referred to a podiatrist for continuing foot care and is warned that decreased sensation can mask injuries.

Home blood glucose self-monitoring is indispensable in helping patients to adjust daily insulin doses according to test results and to achieve optimal long-term control of diabetes. Insulin or other hypoglycemic agents are administered as prescribed, and their action and use explained to the patient. With help from a dietitian, a diet is planned based on the recommended amount of calories, protein, carbohydrates, and fats. The amount of carbohydrates consumed is a dietary key to managing glycemic control in diabetes. For most men, 60 to 75 carbohydrate g per meal are a reasonable intake; for most women, 45 to 60 g are appropriate. Saturated fats should be limited to less than 7% of total caloric intake, and trans-fatty acids (unsaturated fats with hydrogen added) minimized. A steady, consistent level of daily exercise is prescribed, and participation in a supervised exercise program is recommended.

Hypoglycemic reactions are promptly treated by giving carbohydrates (orange juice, hard candy, honey, or any sugary food); if necessary, subcutaneous or intramuscular glucagon or intravenous dextrose (if the patient is not conscious) is administered. Hyperglycemic crises are treated initially with prescribed intravenous fluids and insulin and later with potassium replacement based on laboratory values.

Regular ophthalmological examinations are recommended for early detection of diabetic retinopathy. The patient is educated about diabetes, its possible complications and their management, and the importance of adherence to the prescribed therapy. The patient is taught the importance of maintaining normal blood pressure levels (120/80 mm Hg or lower). Control of even mild-to-moderate hypertension results in fewer diabetic complications, esp. nephropathy, cerebrovascular disease, and cardiovascular disease. Limiting alcohol intake to approximately one drink daily and avoiding tobacco are also important for self-management. Emotional support and a realistic assessment of the patient's condition are offered; this assessment should stress that, with proper treatment, the patient can have a near-normal lifestyle and life expectancy. Long-term goals for a patient with diabetes should include achieving and maintaining optimal metabolic outcomes to prevent complications; modifying diet and lifestyle to prevent and treat obesity, dyslipidemia, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and nephropathy; improving physical activity; and allowing for the patient’s nutritional and psychosocial needs and preferences. Assistance is offered to help the patient develop positive coping strategies. It is estimated that 23 million Americans will be diabetic by the year 2030. The increasing prevalence of obesity coincides with the increasing incidence of diabetes; approx. 45% of those diagnosed receive optimal care according to established guidelines. According to the CDC, the NIH, and the ADA, about 40% of Americans between ages 40 and 74 have prediabetes, putting them at increased risk for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Lifestyle changes with a focus on decreasing obesity can prevent or delay the onset of diabetes in 58% of this population. The patient and family should be referred to local and national support and information groups and may require psychological counseling.

Diabetic KetoacidosisHypoglycemia
OnsetGradualOften sudden
HistoryOften acute infection in a diabetic or insufficient insulin intakeRecent insulin injection, inadequate meal, or excessive exercise after insulin
Previous history of diabetes may be absent
MusculoskeletalMuscle wasting or weight lossWeakness
Muscle twitching
GastrointestinalAbdominal pains or cramps, sometimes acuteNausea and vomiting
Nausea and vomiting
Central nervous systemHeadacheConfusion, delirium, or seizures
Double or blurred vision
Orthostatic hypotension
SkinFlushed, dryDiaphoretic, pale
RespiratoryAir hungerVariable
Acetone odor of breathIncreased respiratory rate
Laboratory valuesElevated blood glucose (> 200 mg/dL)Subnormal blood glucose (0–50 mg/dL)
Glucose and ketones in blood and urineAbsence of glucose and ketones in urine unless bladder is full
See also: diabetes

diabetes mellitus

; DM multiaetiology metabolic disease due to reduced/absent production of pancreatic insulin, and/or insulin resistance by peripheral tissue insulin receptors; characterized by reduced carbohydrate metabolism and increased fat and protein metabolism, leading to hyperglycaemia, increasing glycosuria, water and electrolyte imbalance, ketoacidosis, coma and death if left untreated; chronic long-term complications of DM include nephropathy, retinopathy, neuropathy and generalized degenerative changes in large and small arteries; treatment (with insulin/oral hypoglycaemic agents/diet) aims to stabilize blood glucose levels to the normal range (difficult to achieve fully; patients may tend to hyperglycaemia or hypoglycaemia due to mismanagement of glycaemic control); Tables D4-D7

di·a·be·tes mel·li·tus

(dī-ă-bē'tēz mel'i-tŭs)
A chronic metabolic disorder in which the use of carbohydrate is impaired and that of lipid and protein is enhanced. It is caused by an absolute or relative deficiency of insulin and is characterized, in more severe cases, by chronic hyperglycemia, glycosuria, water and electrolyte loss, ketoacidosis, and coma. Long-term complications include neuropathy, retinopathy, nephropathy, generalized degenerative changes in large and small blood vessels, and increased susceptibility to infection.
[L. sweetened with honey]

diabetes mellitus

n a metabolic disorder caused primarily by a defect in the production of insulin by the islet cells of the pancreas, resulting in an inability to use carbohydrates. Characterized by hyperglycemia, glycosuria, polyuria, hyperlipemia (caused by imperfect catabolism of fats), acidosis, ketonuria, and a lowered resistance to infection. Periodontal manifestations if blood sugar is not being controlled may include recurrent and multiple periodontal abscesses, osteoporotic changes in alveolar bone, fungating masses of granulation tissue protruding from periodontal pockets, a lowered resistance to infection, and delay in healing after periodontal therapy. See also blood glucose level(s).
diabetes mellitus, amputation,
n a great number of limb amputations are caused by diabetes, especially amputations of the feet; blood infections in the feet can go unnoticed by the patient because of a lack of feeling caused by diabetic neuropathy.
diabetes mellitus, type 1,
n diabetes that usually includes patients requiring the administration of insulin to prevent ketosis. Previously called
insulin-dependent (IDDM), juvenile-onset diabetes, brittle diabetes, and
ketosis-prone diabetes.
diabetes mellitus, type 2,
n diabetes that includes patients who can maintain proper blood sugar levels within the administration of insulin. Previously called
non insulin-dependent (NIDDM), maturity-onset diabetes, adult-onset diabetes, ketosis-resistant diabetes, and
stable diabetes.
diabetes, phlorizin
n a condition of glycosuria caused by inhibition of phosphorylation of phlorizin. It is not related to an endocrine disturbance.

diabetes mellitus

a broadly applied term used to denote a complex group of syndromes that have in common a disturbance in the oxidation and utilization of glucose, which is secondary to a malfunction of the beta cells of the pancreas, whose function is the production and release of insulin. Because insulin is involved in the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins and fats, diabetes is not limited to a disturbance of glucose homeostasis alone.
Diabetes mellitus has been recorded in all species but is most commonly seen in middle-aged to older, obese, female dogs. A familial predisposition has been suggested. It is possible to identify two types of diabetes, corresponding to the disease in humans, depending on the response to an intravenous glucose tolerance test. Type I is insulin-dependent and comparable to the juvenile onset form of the disease in children in which there is an absolute deficiency of insulin—there is a very low initial blood insulin level and a low response to the injected glucose. This form is seen in a number of dog breeds, particularly the Keeshond, Doberman pinscher, German shepherd dog, Poodle, Golden retriever and Labrador retriever.
Type II is non-insulin-dependent, similar to the adult onset diabetes in humans due to pancreatic damage—there is a high or normal initial blood insulin level and no increase in insulin levels as a result of the glucose load. It is the form seen most often in cats.

brittle diabetes mellitus
diabetes mellitus that is difficult to control, characterized by unexplained oscillation between hypoglycemia and diabetic ketoacidosis.
gestational diabetes mellitus
diabetes mellitus in which onset or recognition of impaired glucose tolerance occurs during pregnancy.
hyperosmolar diabetes mellitus
a syndrome of marked hyperglycemia and hyperosmolarity with central nervous signs, resembling diabetic coma.
insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM)
due to deficient secretion of insulin by the beta cells of the pancreas. See diabetes mellitus type I (above).
juvenile diabetes mellitus
develops in the young; see diabetes mellitus type I (above).
non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM)
the secretion of insulin is unimpaired but the response of tissue receptors is diminished. See diabetes mellitus type II (above).
secondary diabetes mellitus
hyperglycemia may occur in association with pancreatitis, hyperadrenocorticism, acromegaly, and treatment with glucocorticoids or progesterone.
steroid diabetes mellitus
altered carbohydrate tolerance is induced by glucocorticoids and progestogens. Hyperglycemia and diabetes mellitus can be associated with the administration of such drugs or hyperadrenocorticism.

Patient discussion about diabetes mellitus

Q. My 7yr has Diabetes. She been Diabetic for about 5 weeks and we can't get numbers at a good spot. she aether way to low (30- 60 scary when she gets like this) and to high (300 - 400) We been looking at what she eating calling the physician. he been play with here shots but nothing working. Its when she at school is were the nuber are mostly going up an down. we been trying to work with the school but she the only one in the hole school that has Diabetes. what to do ?

A. Try to reduce her stress.
Keep an eye on her, but don't make it sound like such a big deal.

Q. how diabetes is caused

A. Diabetes is the inability of the body to ‘produce insulin - type 1 diabetes’ or ‘proper use of insulin - type 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes and pre-diabetes’. Diabetes is often goes undiagnosed because many of the symptoms of diabetes seems harmless. The causes of diabetes continues to be a mystery, pancreas it the organ whose defect causes diabetes.
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Here we can find information on alternative medicines for diabetes.

Q. my grandmother was diabetic ... and i learned that diabetic is genetic ... should i be concern for me or or for one of my family reletives ... she suffered a lot and she died of it .. if a blood tests shows high amount of sugar in my blood , does i mean i am diabetic ?

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