Why is there too much sugar in the blood? What's wrong with having high blood sugar?

The cells of the body run on a fuel called glucose. This is the sugar that the body manufactures from the food we eat. Glucose is carried to the cells in the bloodstream. But the body cells are locked up tighter than a Manhattan apartment. Glucose can't get into a cell without a key. That key is insulin. Insulin is a hormone that comes from a gland called the pancreas.

In the case of diabetics who must take insulin, the pancreas is either no longer making any insulin or not making enough of it. That is to say, all or some of the keys (insulin) may be missing. On the other hand, in those who don't require insulin often there are plenty of keys or even too many, but the cells either do not have enough locks (called insulin receptors) to let the insulin in, or something is keeping the locks from working. For example, they may be gummed up with fat.

What wrong with having high blood sugar? 

High blood sugar is an indication that your body is getting little or no fuel. In desperation it begins to convert its own fat and muscle into fuel. This is like chopping down the walls of your house to get wood to burn in your fireplace. If you keep that up, soon you have no house left.

But that's not even the worst of it. When the body burns itself for fuel, excess ketones (substances which are formed during the digestion of fat) are given off. These excess ketones can poison the body. This poisoning called ketoacidosis can lead to death.

Perhaps you remember reading about the California boy Wesley Parker, whose father threw away his insulin because a faith healer had "cured" the boy's diabetes. Within three days Wesley was dead from ketoacidosis.

There is still something else wrong with having high blood sugar. Let's say you have some insulin that's working either insulin you've injected or insulin you've produced in your own pancreas but you don't have enough. Then, while you won't use up your own body as fuel and you won't be poisoning yourself with ketones, you still have too much glucose flowing through your bloodstream. That's not good, because this situation brings about long-range diabetes complications like blindness, kidney failure, and gangrene of the feet.


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