About Diabetes

Diabetes is a disease that keeps your body from making or using insulin. Insulin is a hormone made by your pancreas. Insulin helps turn the food you eat into energy your body needs.

When you have diabetes, your body doesn't change food into energy as well as it should. Sugar builds up in your blood. If blood sugar stays too high, it can slowly cause damage to your heart, eyes, kidneys and feet. When diabetes is not controlled for long periods of time, it can lead to heart disease, blindness, kidney failure, and loss of fingers, toes, hands or feet.

Why is Treatment Important?

High blood sugar is a problem because it can cause serious damage to the body. If left untreated, it can result in:

  • Loss of sight
  • Heart and blood flow problems
  • Loss of kidney function
  • Loss of feeling in your hands and feet
  • Skin infections
  • Respiratory infections
  • Impotence (a condition where the penis does not become or stay hard enough for sex)
  • Gum and tooth diseases

Am I at Risk?

Almost everyone knows someone who has diabetes. Risk factors for type 2 diabetes include:

  • Older age
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Family history of diabetes
  • Having diabetes during a pregnancy. This is called gestational diabetes.
  • Higher than normal levels of blood sugar. This is called impaired glucose tolerance or pre-diabetes.
  • Not exercising enough

Risk factors for type 1 diabetes are less clear than they are for type 2 diabetes. Family history, genetics, and problems with the body's system for fighting infection give a higher risk for type 1 diabetes.

Types of Diabetes

There are two types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is when the body does not produce enough insulin.

Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes usually is first diagnosed during childhood.

Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is when the body does not respond as it should to insulin. Both adults and children can get type 2 diabetes.


Type 1 Diabetes

  • Frequent urination
  • Unusual thirst
  • Extreme hunger
  • Unusual weight loss
  • Extreme tiredness and often annoyed

Type 2 Diabetes

  • Any of the type 1 symptoms
  • Frequent infections
  • Blurred vision
  • Cuts/bruises that are slow to heal
  • Tingling/numbness in the hands/feet
  • Recurring skin, gum, or bladder infections


Nerve Damage
People with diabetes can have nerve damage to their feet and hands, as well as major organs. Called neuropathy (noo-ROP-uh-thee), the nerve damage can lessen your ability to feel pain, heat and cold. You may not even notice a foot injury, for example, until a severe infection develops.

Diabetic Eye Disease
Called retinopathy (ret-n-OP-uh-thee), it is a disease of the small blood vessels of the retinas (eyes) of people with diabetes. In this disease, the vessels swell and leak liquid into the retina, blurring the vision and sometimes leading to blindness.

Kidney Damage
The kidneys work hard to make up for the failing small blood vessels, so kidney disease produces no symptoms until almost all function is gone. This type of kidney disease is known as nephropathy (nuh-FROP-uh-thee). Unfortunately, the symptoms of kidney disease are not specific. The first symptom of kidney disease is often fluid buildup. Other symptoms of kidney disease include loss of sleep, poor appetite, upset stomach, weakness, and difficulty concentrating.

Heart Disease
People with diabetes form blockages to the vessels in their heart more easily. As a result, the blockages can stop blood from flowing, causing a heart attack or stroke.

Find a Diabetes Physician

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