Diabetes affects almost 200 million people worldwide today, and shows all the signs of being classified as a modern day epidemic.
It is estimated that the number of diabetics in the world will double by the next decade. Studies have shown that the trend has a 2 to 1 ratio between women and men. The higher incidence of diabetes in women has also led to the existence of another type of diabetes known as gestational diabetes.
Gestational diabetes shows up in 4 to 8 percent of pregnancies, affecting 135,000 women in the United States alone each year. The biggest threat posed by gestational diabetes is that the developing infant runs a high risk of being born with type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes affects 90 percent of the world's diabetics, and involves the blood cells having a high resistance rate to insulin, resulting in an increased demand on the pancreatic cells of the body which generate insulin. Type 2 diabetes is closely linked to obesity, and is a leading cause of both blindness and heart failure.
Women who develop gestational diabetes run the risk of complications during pregnancy aside from the fact that their infants may be born with type 2 diabetes. Gestational diabetes has been known to lead to hemorrhaging and other difficulties during childbirth, as well as leading to a few stillbirths. Thankfully, the number of fatalities as a result of the complications of gestational diabetes are low.
A large number of women who are affected by type 2 diabetes will also develop gestational diabetes during conception, though there are also reported cases where the women were never previously diagnosed with diabetes. Studies are still being conducted to support two theories regarding this; the first being that the women were never diagnosed with diabetes but had it to begin with in a milder latent form that was only diagnosed during pregnancy, and the second that the women developed diabetes during their pregnancy as a result of dietary imbalance, obesity, and lack of physical exercise.
There is enough evidence to support both theories. On the one hand, 2/3 of the people in Europe who were undergoing treatment for cardiovascular problems were actually discovered to have diabetes, and they simply were never diagnosed for it, which supports the first theory. On the other hand, the main leading cause of type 2 diabetes is high intake of sugar in the diet, intestinal obesity, and lack of exercise, all of which are factors which affect some pregnant women. This supports the second theory.
Whatever the case, diabetes is rapidly turning into an epidemic, and international health organizations and governments have begun to increase their research into finding ways to address this growing problem. In the United States, Senators Hilary Clinton and Susan Collins have recently introduced the Gestational Diabetes Act, which is being supported by the American Diabetes Association.
The act is intended to promote research into gestational diabetes and to try and find preventive measures and cures to the problem. Given the number of diabetics is increasing daily, this research is vital to keeping the problem of diabetes in general stemmed.
While diabetes can be avoided by people who lead the right lifestyles by getting enough exercise and keeping proper diets, the children who are born with type 2 diabetes as a result of gestational diabetes in their mothers have no such defense.