Caroline Campbell was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes about a year ago and requires insulin injections after most meals -- a routine so common, she doesn't even flinch.
Although diabetes affects millions of Americans few understand what it does to the body and why it increases the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Here's how it works.
When someone without diabetes eats sugar, it eventually gets into the blood stream.
Normally, that sugar is supposed to be taken out of hte bloodstream and into the cells by insulin.
When insulin is absent, or when the body doesn't release enough of it, the cells resist the action, and the sugar stays in the blood.
When sugar doesn’t get into the cell, the cell has no fuel, so it burns other things -- chemicals that are dangerous and may lead to coma and death.
Although we don’t know the exact mechanism for how diabetes leads to long term problems, most experts believe that when the sugar levels stay high in the blood, the veins and arteries that carry the blood get damaged.
That damage may lead to stroke, heart attack and many other problems. These problems include kidney disease, heart attack, stroke and blindness.
The damage may also affect nerves, causing what doctors call neuropathy. People can lose sensation in their extremities and have difficulty healing from wounds and infections.
Regular checkups to detect diabetes early and tight control of blood pressure helps reduce all of these dangers