Diabetes is a chronic disease in which the body cannot regulate the amount of sugar in the blood.
Diabetes - type 1; Diabetes - type 2; Diabetes - gestational; Type 1 diabetes; Type 2 diabetes; Gestational diabetes; Diabetes mellitus
Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas to control blood sugar. Diabetes can be caused by too little insulin, resistance to insulin, or both.
To understand diabetes, it is important to first understand the normal process by which food is broken down and used by the body for energy. Several things happen when food is digested:
People with diabetes have high blood sugar because their body cannot move sugar from the blood into muscle and fat cells to be burned or stored for energy, and/or because their liver makes too much glucose and releases it into the blood. This is because either:
There are two major types of diabetes. The causes and risk factors are different for each type:
Gestational diabetes is high blood sugar that develops at any time during pregnancy in a woman who does not have diabetes.
If your parent, brother, or sister has diabetes, you may be more likely to develop the disease.
A high blood sugar level can cause several symptoms, including:
Because type 2 diabetes develops slowly, some people with high blood sugar have no symptoms.
Symptoms of type 1 diabetes develop over a short period. People may be very sick by the time they are diagnosed.
After many years, diabetes can lead to other serious problems. These problems are known as diabetes complications, and include:
Exams and Tests
A urine analysis may show high blood sugar. But a urine test alone does not diagnose diabetes.
Your health care provider may suspect that you have diabetes if your blood sugar level is higher than 200 mg/dL (11.1 mmol/L). To confirm the diagnosis, one or more of the following tests must be done.
Screening for type 2 diabetes in people who have no symptoms is recommended for:
Type 2 diabetes may be reversed with lifestyle changes, especially losing weight with exercise and by eating healthier foods. Some cases of type 2 diabetes can also be improved with weight loss surgery.
There is no cure for type 1 diabetes.
Treating either type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes involves medicines, diet, and exercise to control blood sugar level.
Everyone with diabetes should receive proper education and support about the best ways to manage their diabetes. Ask your provider about seeing a diabetes nurse educator.
Getting better control over your blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure levels helps reduce the risk of kidney disease, eye disease, nervous system disease, heart attack, and stroke.
To prevent diabetes complications, visit your provider at least 2 to 4 times a year. Talk about any problems you are having. Follow your provider's instructions on managing your diabetes.
Many resources can help you understand more about diabetes. If you have diabetes, you can also learn ways to manage your condition and prevent diabetes complications.
Diabetes is a lifelong disease and there is no cure.
Tight control of blood glucose can prevent or delay diabetes complications. But these problems can occur, even in people with good diabetes control.
After many years, diabetes can lead to serious health problems:
Keeping an ideal body weight and an active lifestyle may prevent or delay the start of type 2 diabetes. If you're overweight, losing just 5% to 7% of your body weight even helps. Some medicines can also be used to delay or prevent the start of type 2 diabetes.
At this time, type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented. But there is promising research that shows type 1 diabetes may be delayed in some high risk people.
American Diabetes Association. Standards of medical care in diabetes – 2017. Diabetes Care. 2017;40(Suppl 1):S4-S5. care.diabetesjournals.org/content/40/Supplement_1.
Atkinson MA. Type 1 diabetes mellitus. In: Melmed S, Polonsky KS, Larsen PR, Kronenberg HM, eds. Williams Textbook of Endocrinology. 13th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 32.
Polonsky KS, Burant CF. Type 2 diabetes mellitus. In: Melmed S, Polonsky KS, Larsen PR, Kronenberg HM, eds. Williams Textbook of Endocrinology. 13th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 31.
Review Date: 4/15/2017
Reviewed By: Robert Hurd, MD, Professor of Endocrinology and Health Care Ethics, Xavier University, Cincinnati, OH. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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