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The term "diabetes mellitus" represents a group of conditions characterized by abnormally high blood glucose levels (hyperglycemia). In 1997, nearly 16 million people in the United States had diabetes; approximately 10.3 million were diagnosed with the conditions, while an estimated 5.4 million were undiagnosed. Diabetes may be complicated by uncontrolled hyperglycemia, and treated diabetes may be complicated by abnormally low blood glucose levels (hypoglycemia). Maternal diabetes
When diabetes is associated with marked hyperglycemia, it produces characteristic symptoms and signs; particularly increased thirst (polydipsia), increased urination (polyuria), and unexplained weight loss. At other times, hyperglycemia sufficient to cause changes in the eyes, kidneys, and nerves, and to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, may be present without clinical symptoms. During this asymptomatic period, an abnormality in glucose metabolism may be demonstrated by measuring fasting venous glucose or venous glucose after an oral glucose challenge.
When a patient is symptomatic and the plasma glucose is unequivocally elevated, a diagnosis of diabetes presents no difficulty. When a patient is without clinical symptoms, a diagnosis of diabetes is more difficult. According to a 1997 American Diabetes Association (ADA) report, there are three ways to diagnose diabetes (see Table 1). All require measurement of venous plasma glucose, and each must be confirmed on a subsequent day by any one of the three methods. In general, the oral glucose tolerance test is not recommended for routine clinical use and is performed only in patients with elevated but nondiagnostic fasting plasma-glucose levels with a high index of suspicion for diabetes.
Author Info: WILLIAM H. HERMAN, LIZA L. ILAG, The Gale Group Inc., Macmillan Reference USA, New York, Gale Encyclopedia of Public Health, 2002
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