What is Diabetes?


Diabetes is a disease that occurs when your glucose (sugar) level in your blood is too high. Glucose comes from the food you eat, and is your body’s main source of energy. To fuel your body, glucose gets into your cells with the help of a hormone called insulin.  Insulin is produced by an organ called the pancreas. When your pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin, glucose stays in your blood and isn’t able to reach your cells.

Over time, having too much glucose in your blood can cause heart disease, stroke, eye disease, kidney disease, and other serious health problems.

Anyone can get diabetes, but it tends to run in families. It is also more common in black, Native American, Hispanic, Asian and other ethnic groups. There are different types of diabetes, and each happens for different reasons. The most common types of diabetes are:

Type 1 Diabetes

If you have type 1 diabetes, your body does not make insulin at all. This type of diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults, but it can appear at any age. People with type 1 diabetes need to take insulin every day to stay alive. The cause of type 1 diabetes is unknown.

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes. If you have type 2 diabetes, your body still makes some of its own insulin. However, the cells in your body cannot take in enough sugar for energy, and the sugar stays in your blood.  While there is no cure for type 2 diabetes, losing weight, eating well and exercising can help you live a healthy life.  If diet and exercise aren’t enough to manage your blood sugar, you may also need medications or insulin therapy.

Gestational Diabetes

Pregnant woman might develop gestational diabetes. Most of the time, this type of diabetes goes away after childbirth. However, women who develop gestational diabetes have a greater chance of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

Managing Your Diabetes

Patient Guide to Managing Diabetes

Millions of people in the United States (about 1 in 10) have diabetes. About 1 in 5 people with diabetes don’t know they have diabetes.

When it comes to living with diabetes, you are the most important part of your health care team. Making healthy choices at home each day can help you avoid serious complications. It will also help you:

  • Have more energy
  • Be less tired and thirsty
  • Heal better
  • Have fewer skin or bladder infections
  • Need to pass urine less often

You can do this by making healthy food choices, staying at a healthy weight, being more active, and taking any prescribed medication (even when you feel good). 

It’s a lot to do, and some days will be challenging – but it is worth it! Some simple actions you can take to start managing your diabetes are:

  • Ask your health care team what type of diabetes you have.
  • Learn about how and when to test your blood sugar.
  • Learn what action to take if you blood sugar is high or low.
  • Ask for a healthy meal plan.
  • Discuss how your plan is working each time you visit your health care team.
  • Get support (you’re not alone!).