Skip to main content
Health Management and Education

Health Management and Education

What is diabetes?

 question mark

Everyone has glucose (sugar) in their blood.  It is the fuel for the body’s cells. Glucose comes from the food you eat as well as what your body produces. A hormone produced in the pancreas, called insulin, moves sugar from the blood stream to the cells where it is used for energy.  In diabetes, sugar cannot travel from the blood steam into the body cells so it stays in the blood. This is caused when either the body does not produce enough insulin or it does not use insulin correctly. Over time, high blood sugar, called hyperglycemia, can lead to serious health problems such as heart attacks, strokes, and blindness. Finding out you have diabetes is scary, but don't panic. People with diabetes can live long, healthy, happy lives when they learn how to manage the disease.

Type 1 diabetes

Type 1 was previously called insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM) or juvenile-onset diabetes. Type 1 diabetes develops when the body's immune system destroys pancreatic beta cells, the only cells in the body that make the hormone insulin that regulates blood glucose. To survive, people with type 1 diabetes must have insulin delivered by injection or a pump.

This form of diabetes usually strikes children and young adults, although disease onset can occur at any age. Type 1 diabetes accounts for 5% to 10% of all diagnosed cases of diabetes. Risk factors for type 1 diabetes may be autoimmune, genetic, or environmental. There is no known way to prevent type 1 diabetes. Several clinical trials of methods of the prevention of type 1 diabetes are currently in progress or are being planned.

Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 was previously called non insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) or adult-onset diabetes. Type 2 diabetes accounts for about 90% to 95% of all diagnosed cases of diabetes. It usually begins as insulin resistance, a disorder in which the cells do not use insulin properly. As the need for insulin rises, the pancreas gradually loses its ability to produce it.

Type 2 diabetes is associated with older age, obesity, family history of diabetes, history of gestational diabetes, impaired glucose metabolism, physical inactivity, and race/ethnicity. African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians, and some Asian Americans and Native Hawaiians or other Pacific Islanders are at particularly high risk for type 2 diabetes and its complications. Clinically-based reports and regional studies suggest that Type 2 diabetes in children and adolescents, although still rare, is being diagnosed more frequently, particularly in American Indians, African Americans, and Hispanic/Latino Americans.

Gestational diabetes

a pregnant women meditating

Gestational diabetes is a form of glucose intolerance diagnosed in some women during pregnancy. It occurs more frequently among African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, and American Indians. It is also more common among obese women and women with a family history of diabetes. During pregnancy, gestational diabetes requires treatment to normalize maternal blood glucose levels to avoid complications in the infant. After pregnancy, 5% to 10% of women with gestational diabetes are found to have type 2 diabetes. Women who have had gestational diabetes have a 20% to 50% chance of developing diabetes in the next 5 -10 years.

Other Types of Diabetes result from specific genetic conditions (such as maturity-onset diabetes of youth), surgery, drugs, malnutrition, infections, and other illnesses. Such types of diabetes account for 1% to 5% of all diagnosed cases.