All about the Pancreas and Diabetes

Diabetes now ranks among the top 10 causes of death in most developed and industrialized societies. Latest estimates project that nearly 180 million people are afflicted. Fifteen years ago, there were around 30 million cases of diabetes worldwide. Ten years after, the number increased to 135 million. At this rate twenty years from now, there will be around 300 million people with diabetes. As such, health experts and officials have deemed diabetes a global epidemic.

But what is diabetes and how does it affect the body?

Diabetes is a disease that stems from the lack of insulin. Insulin is a hormone produced by the body to process glucose. Glucose is a form of sugar that the cells of the body need for energy. But before a cell can use glucose, insulin is needed to process the sugar into a form the cell can absorb.

Without insulin, the cells do not get the energy needed to run the body properly, making a person feel weak. Furthermore, since the glucose is not used up it stays in the blood, which is harmful to the body, particularly to the kidneys.

Without proper treatment, the complications arising from diabetes are many and severe. Some of these include eyesight loss (retinopathy), nerve damage, kidney failure, and in very severe cases, diabetic ketoacidosis (diabetic coma).

There are two types of diabetes, differing in the cause of contracting the disease, but nevertheless both are equally serious. Type I diabetes is caused by the body's immune system mistakenly attacking the cells responsible for the production of insulin. As these cells are destroyed, insulin production is halted as well.

Type II diabetes is primarily caused by the body's inability to process glucose even if insulin is present in the body. This is mainly because there is too much sugar in the body and not enough insulin is produced to process the excess sugar. As such, the blood sugar levels rise while putting extreme stress on the pancreas.

The pancreas is a gland that lies crosswise and behind the stomach. It is where insulin is produced and released into the body. Cells called islets of Langerhans are the primary makers of insulin, and these are what the immune system attacks in a Type I diabetes case.

In the case of Type II diabetes, the pancreas is forced to produce so much insulin to cope with the high levels of sugar in the body. Unfortunately, if high sugar levels are maintained for long periods of time, the undue stress may cause the pancreas to break down.

Most Type I diabetic patients manage the disease by having insulin artificially administered. The most common methods are pills and hypodermic needle syringes. Other delivery methods are being developed as well, such as an oral spray that delivers the patient's required amount of insulin.

Those with Type II diabetes may not need artificial insulin administration. A different medication can be coupled with a controlled diet and exercise. As there is a proven correlation between Type II diabetes and obesity, doctors and health experts recommend obese individuals to undergo a regimented weight loss and management program to combat the disease. However, in advanced cases of Type II diabetes, artificial insulin administration could be prescribed.

For Type I diabetes, no real cure exists, except for a pancreatic transplant. Since the patient's own pancreas has been compromised by the disease, a new pancreas is needed to restore the body's own ability to produce insulin.

There already have been reported and successful cases of pancreatic transplants, but the risks and stakes are very high. The chances are great that the body's immune system may reject the new organ leading to very serious and fatal complications.

Furthermore, research shows that a good number of those successful pancreatic transplants involved having undergone a kidney transplant as well. The mortality rate of patients who've undergone just the transplant of the pancreas is greater compared to cases of patients who have undergone pancreas and kidney transplants.

Prevention of diabetes is highly possible, and extremely easy if you already are observing proper dietary and exercise habits.

If, however, you find yourself leading a lifestyle with little physical activity while consuming food high in sugar, you should take stock of your current lifestyle and seriously consider changing. Consult with a doctor to help you assess your current state as far as diabetes is concerned. The sooner these are done, the better. As you become kinder to your body, it will respond accordingly.