Diabetes, also known as diabetes mellitus, is a general term for a variety of different metabolic disorders that affect the ability of the body to process and use sugar properly. Medically, this is referred to as an inability of the body to metabolize glucose effectively. This results in an abnormally high level of glucose in the blood, called hyperglycemia.
Left untreated, hyperglycemia can lead to serious long-term complications, such as kidney failure, blindness, serious skin infections, gangrene, cardiovascular disease, birth defects, stroke, disability, and death. Currently, diabetes is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. Complications of diabetes can be minimized or possibly eliminated by prompt diagnosis and effective ongoing treatment.
The causes, symptoms, complications, and management of diabetes vary depending on the specific type of diabetes. The major types of diabetes include type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, and gestational diabetes. The earliest form of type 2 diabetes is called prediabetes. Some forms of diabetes, such as type 2 diabetes, are becoming more common. In general, the prevalence of diagnosed diabetes is rising in the U.S. and will increase 165 percent by 2050, according to the CDC.
The hormone insulin is a key player in diabetes. Insulin is produced by the pancreas, an endocrine gland located in the upper abdomen. Insulin's role is to facilitate the movement of glucose from the bloodstream into the body's cells, where it is used for energy. In type 1 diabetes the cells that make insulin in the pancreas are destroyed. In type 2 diabetes the body still produces insulin, but the body's cells become resistant to its effects. In gestational diabetes, the body still makes insulin, but the hormones that are produced during pregnancy make the body's cells more resistant to it.
Symptoms of diabetes can vary by type but may include excessive thirst, excessive urination, fatigue, slow healing wounds, blurred vision and weight loss. Some people with some types of diabetes, such as type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes, may not have any obvious symptoms, resulting in a delay in diagnosis of the disease. Because of this it is important to have regular medical examinations throughout your lifetime so the risk of diabetes can be evaluated and the disease promptly diagnosed and treated before major complications arise. For more details on symptoms, refer to symptoms of diabetes.
Diabetes is easy to diagnose during a routine office visit with a simple blood test, called a fasting blood glucose test, which will detect hyperglycemia. High levels of glucose may also be quickly seen on a random blood glucose test or an urinanalysis performed on urine. Pregnant women are generally tested with a glucose challenge test. The newest form of testing for diabetes is the glycated hemoglobin (A1C) test, which measures the average overall blood sugar for the past several months. For more details on misdiagnosis, refer to misdiagnosis of diabetes.
Treatment of diabetes varies depending on the type, but management of all types of diabetes includes regular monitoring of blood sugar levels, eating a well-balanced healthy diet and regular aerobic exercise. Type 1 diabetes is always treated with injected insulin and some people with type 2 diabetes or gestational diabetes may need insulin injections as well. Type 2 diabetes is often treated with oral antidiabetic medications. For more details on treatment, refer to treatment of diabetes. ...more »
Diabetes is a failure or reduction in the body's ability to handle sugar.
It is a common disease with around 4% (or 8 million) Americans having diabetes.
The single greatest problem with diabetes diagnosis is the failure
to diagnose it, and the estimates of those who have the disease
but are currently undiagnosed add another 4% or 8 million Americans.
So only about half the people who currently have diabetes are diagnosed.
Most people have Type 2 diabetes or "adult diabetes"
rather than the insulin-requiring Type 1 diabetes which afflicts the young.
This number does not even include those who currently have impaired glucose tolerance
which is a milder precursor to Type 2 diabetes.
There are also various rare secondary types of diabetes
caused by an underlying condition such as hemochromatosis, PCOS, or other
conditions or medications. ...more »
More Diabetes animations & videos
Diabetes: Broader Related Topics
Types of Diabetes
» Next page: What is Diabetes?
Medical Tools & Articles:
Tools & Services:
Forums & Message Boards
- Ask or answer a question at the Boards: