Suffering Foot or Ankle Pain or Discomfort?
This is an "Ask the Doctor Question" and the response. We felt that this question and answer was informative.
I would like to know how the cells in the body react when someone has diabetes and how is this different from someone who does not have diabetes?
You have asked a complex question. I will try to explain this as clearly as I can. People who have diabetes have a lack of insulin in their blood. Insulin is made in an organ called the pancreas. Insulin is important to allow glucose (blood sugar) to get into the cells of the body. Put another way, insulin opens the door to let blood sugar to enter most cells in the body. Blood sugar is a food for the body's cells. If insulin is low or absent in the blood then the cells don't get fed the blood sugar they need. If the blood sugar cannot get into the body's cells then it builds up in the blood stream and the sugar count increases on the blood tests that we do. Also, as the blood sugar increases and can not get into the body's cells, it has the effect of drawing water out of the cells and shrinking them up, making them even less healthy.
The nerves in the body are affected a bit differently. Nerve cells will allow blood sugar in without insulin. However, without insulin present the sugar is not used by the nerve cell properly and the sugar accumulates in the cell. Over time this will damage the nerve cell and cause the nerve to die. This causes numbness and tingling in the feet and sometimes in the hands. Blood vessels are also made up of cells. As the sugar builds up in these cells, it swells them up and this causes a narrowing of the blood vessel. This causes a decrease in the circulation to the feet, the kidneys and the eyes. This is why people with diabetes often lose their legs, their eyesight and kidney function.
It is very important that people with diabetes learn about their condition, control their blood sugar, and exercise.