Diabetes: The Economic and Social Implications

Essay by WollCollege, UndergraduateA-, April 2009

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"...For fluids do not remain in the body, but use the body only as a channel through which they may flow out. Life lasts only for a time, but not very long. For they urinate with pain and painful is the emaciation. For no essential part of the drink is absorbed by the body while great masses of the flesh are liquefied into urine."1 This quote comes from the ancient Greek physician, Aretaeus, who recognized the destructive illness of diabetes. Aretaeus and other ancient physicians lacked understanding of this killer and were powerless to treat it, but over 2,000 years later there are well-recognized and documented symptoms, causes, and treatments for diabetes mellitus. There are two types of diabetes. Type 1 is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks and destroys beta cells in the pancreas. The body, in turn, produces little to no insulin, and the sufferer must take insulin to live.

In type 2 diabetes, the pancreas is producing insulin, but the body cannot effectively utilize it, a condition called insulin resistance. Over time, insulin production decreases, glucose builds up in the blood, and the body cannot use its main source of energy. 5 to 10 percent of diabetes in the United States is attributed to type 1. Scientist don't know specifically what causes the immune system to attack the beta cells, but autoimmune, environmental, genetic, and viral factors are involved.2 Type 2 is responsible for other 90 to 95 percent of diabetics in America. Unlike type 1, type 2 diabetes can be directly correlated to "older age, obesity, family history of diabetes, previous history of gestational diabetes, physical inactivity, and certain ethnicities."2 This form of diabetes is interesting and disheartening in its implications and scope. The majority of Americans who have diabetes have the preventable...