Normally, blood glucose levels are tightly controlled by insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas. Insulin lowers the blood glucose level. When the blood glucose elevates (for example, after eating food), insulin is released from the pancreas to normalize the glucose level by promoting the uptake of glucose into body cells. In patients with diabetes, the absence of insufficient production of or lack of response to insulin causes hyperglycemia. Diabetes is a chronic medical condition, meaning that although it can be controlled, it lasts a lifetime.
Excess glucose in the blood can damage small blood vessels in the nerves causing a tingling sensation or pain in the fingers, toes and limbs. Nerves that lie outside of the central nervous system may also be damaged, which is referred to as peripheral neuropathy. If nerves of the gastrointestinal tract are affected, this may cause vomiting, constipation and diarrhea.
Type 2 diabetes is due to insufficient insulin production from beta cells in the setting of insulin resistance.[13] Insulin resistance, which is the inability of cells to respond adequately to normal levels of insulin, occurs primarily within the muscles, liver, and fat tissue.[44] In the liver, insulin normally suppresses glucose release. However, in the setting of insulin resistance, the liver inappropriately releases glucose into the blood.[10] The proportion of insulin resistance versus beta cell dysfunction differs among individuals, with some having primarily insulin resistance and only a minor defect in insulin secretion and others with slight insulin resistance and primarily a lack of insulin secretion.[13]
Nerve damage from diabetes is called diabetic neuropathy and is also caused by disease of small blood vessels. In essence, the blood flow to the nerves is limited, leaving the nerves without blood flow, and they get damaged or die as a result (a term known as ischemia). Symptoms of diabetic nerve damage include numbness, burning, and aching of the feet and lower extremities. When the nerve disease causes a complete loss of sensation in the feet, patients may not be aware of injuries to the feet, and fail to properly protect them. Shoes or other protection should be worn as much as possible. Seemingly minor skin injuries should be attended to promptly to avoid serious infections. Because of poor blood circulation, diabetic foot injuries may not heal. Sometimes, minor foot injuries can lead to serious infection, ulcers, and even gangrene, necessitating surgical amputation of toes, feet, and other infected parts.
About 84 million adults in the US (more than 1 out of 3) have prediabetes, and about 90% do not know they have it until a routine blood test is ordered, or symptoms of type 2 diabetes develop. For example, excessive thirst, frequent urination, and unexplained weight loss. If you have prediabetes also it puts you at risk for heart attack, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
The definition of a genetic disease is a disorder or condition caused by abnormalities in a person's genome. Some types of genetic inheritance include single inheritance, including cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia, Marfan syndrome, and hemochromatosis. Other types of genetic diseases include multifactorial inheritance. Still other types of genetic diseases include chromosome abnormalities (for example, Turner syndrome, and Klinefelter syndrome), and mitochondrial inheritance (for example, epilepsy and dementia).

Type 2 diabetes: Type 2 diabetes affects the way the body uses insulin. While the body still makes insulin, unlike in type I, the cells in the body do not respond to it as effectively as they once did. This is the most common type of diabetes, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, and it has strong links with obesity.
Janis McWilliams, RN, MSN, CDE, BC-ADM, responds: Yes, in type 1 diabetes in particular, the onset of symptoms like frequent urination and extreme thirst can be very sudden. In type 2 diabetes, the symptoms tend to come about more gradually, and sometimes there are no signs at all. People who have symptoms should contact their health care provider immediately for an accurate diagnosis. Keep in mind that these symptoms could signal other problems, too.
Rates of diabetes in 1985 were estimated at 30 million, increasing to 135 million in 1995 and 217 million in 2005.[18] This increase is believed to be primarily due to the global population aging, a decrease in exercise, and increasing rates of obesity.[18] The five countries with the greatest number of people with diabetes as of 2000 are India having 31.7 million, China 20.8 million, the United States 17.7 million, Indonesia 8.4 million, and Japan 6.8 million.[109] It is recognized as a global epidemic by the World Health Organization.[1]
Hyperglycemic hyperosmolar nonketotic syndrome (HHNS). Signs and symptoms of this life-threatening condition include a blood sugar reading higher than 600 mg/dL (33.3 mmol/L), dry mouth, extreme thirst, fever greater than 101 F (38 C), drowsiness, confusion, vision loss, hallucinations and dark urine. Your blood sugar monitor may not be able to give you an exact reading at such high levels and may instead just read "high."
Fasting plasma glucose level: If your blood glucose level is 7.0 mmol/L or higher after having not eaten anything for at least 8 hours – called fasting – your doctor may diagnose diabetes. If your blood glucose level is between 6.1 to 6.9 mmol/L, your doctor may diagnose impaired fasting glucose or prediabetes (a condition that may later develop into diabetes).

The good news is that if you have diabetes, you have a great amount of control in managing your disease. Although it can be difficult to manage a disease on a daily basis, the resources and support for people with diabetes is endless. It's important for you to receive as much education as possible so that you can take advantage of all the good information that is out there (and weed out the bad).


As of 2015, an estimated 415 million people had diabetes worldwide,[8] with type 2 DM making up about 90% of the cases.[16][17] This represents 8.3% of the adult population,[17] with equal rates in both women and men.[18] As of 2014, trends suggested the rate would continue to rise.[19] Diabetes at least doubles a person's risk of early death.[2] From 2012 to 2015, approximately 1.5 to 5.0 million deaths each year resulted from diabetes.[8][9] The global economic cost of diabetes in 2014 was estimated to be US$612 billion.[20] In the United States, diabetes cost $245 billion in 2012.[21]
Diabetes means your blood glucose, or blood sugar, levels are too high. With type 2 diabetes, the more common type, your body does not make or use insulin well. Insulin is a hormone that helps glucose get into your cells to give them energy. Without insulin, too much glucose stays in your blood. Over time, high blood glucose can lead to serious problems with your heart, eyes, kidneys, nerves, and gums and teeth.
Being overweight is a risk factor for developing diabetes, but other risk factors such as how much physical activity you get, family history, ethnicity, and age also play a role. Unfortunately, many people think that weight is the only risk factor for type 2 diabetes, but many people with type 2 diabetes are at a normal weight or only moderately overweight.

If you’re getting a good night’s rest but still find yourself so tired you can barely function, it’s definitely worth mentioning to your doctor. Diabetes often wreaks havoc on a person’s normal blood sugar levels, causing fatigue in the process. In later stages, the tissue death associated with untreated diabetes can also limit circulation, meaning oxygenated blood isn’t being effectively transported to your vital organs, making your body work harder and tiring you out along the way.
The classic symptoms of diabetes such as polyuria, polydypsia and polyphagia occur commonly in type 1 diabetes, which has a rapid development of severe hyperglycaemia and also in type 2 diabetes with very high levels of hyperglycaemia. Severe weight loss is common only in type 1 diabetes or if type 2 diabetes remains undetected for a long period. Unexplained weight loss, fatigue and restlessness and body pain are also common signs of undetected diabetes. Symptoms that are mild or have gradual development could also remain unnoticed.
Type 2 diabetes is due to insufficient insulin production from beta cells in the setting of insulin resistance.[13] Insulin resistance, which is the inability of cells to respond adequately to normal levels of insulin, occurs primarily within the muscles, liver, and fat tissue.[44] In the liver, insulin normally suppresses glucose release. However, in the setting of insulin resistance, the liver inappropriately releases glucose into the blood.[10] The proportion of insulin resistance versus beta cell dysfunction differs among individuals, with some having primarily insulin resistance and only a minor defect in insulin secretion and others with slight insulin resistance and primarily a lack of insulin secretion.[13]

Using insulin to get blood glucose levels to a healthy level is a good thing, not a bad one. For most people, type 2 diabetes is a progressive disease. When first diagnosed, many people with type 2 diabetes can keep their blood glucose at a healthy level with a combination of meal planning, physical activity, and taking oral medications. But over time, the body gradually produces less and less of its own insulin, and eventually oral medications may not be enough to keep blood glucose levels in a healthy range. 

At the same time that the body is trying to get rid of glucose from the blood, the cells are starving for glucose and sending signals to the body to eat more food, thus making patients extremely hungry. To provide energy for the starving cells, the body also tries to convert fats and proteins to glucose. The breakdown of fats and proteins for energy causes acid compounds called ketones to form in the blood. Ketones also will be excreted in the urine. As ketones build up in the blood, a condition called ketoacidosis can occur. This condition can be life threatening if left untreated, leading to coma and death.


A proper diet and exercise are the foundations of diabetic care,[23] with a greater amount of exercise yielding better results.[80] Exercise improves blood sugar control, decreases body fat content and decreases blood lipid levels, and these effects are evident even without weight loss.[81] Aerobic exercise leads to a decrease in HbA1c and improved insulin sensitivity.[82] Resistance training is also useful and the combination of both types of exercise may be most effective.[82]

Patients with type 2 diabetes can still make insulin, but not enough to control their glucose levels. Type 2 diabetes is therefore initially treated with a combination of lifestyle changes (diet and exercise) which reduce the need for insulin and therefore lower glucose levels. If this is insufficient to achieve good glucose control, a range of tablets are available. These include metformin and pioglitazone, which, like diet and exercise, reduce insulin requirements; sulphonylureas (e.g. gliclazide), which stimulate insulin secretion; DPP4 inhibitors (e.g sitagliptin) and GLP-1 agonists (e.g. liraglutide), which stimulate insulin production and reduce appetite; and SGLT2 inhibitors (e.g. dapagliflozin), which lower blood sugar levels by causing sugar to pass out of the body in the urine. In many patients, particularly after several years of treatment, insulin production is so low or so insufficient compared with the patient's needs that patients with type 2 diabetes have to be treated with insulin injections, either alone or in combination with tablets.
Kidney disease: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 33 percent of people with diabetes have chronic kidney disease. Diabetes can also damage blood vessels in the kidneys, impairing function. The kidneys play a vital role in balancing fluid levels and removing waste from the body. Kidney health is therefore vital for preserving overall health.
In Type II diabetes, the pancreas may produce enough insulin, however, cells have become resistant to the insulin produced and it may not work as effectively. Symptoms of Type II diabetes can begin so gradually that a person may not know that he or she has it. Early signs are lethargy, extreme thirst, and frequent urination. Other symptoms may include sudden weight loss, slow wound healing, urinary tract infections, gum disease, or blurred vision. It is not unusual for Type II diabetes to be detected while a patient is seeing a doctor about another health concern that is actually being caused by the yet undiagnosed diabetes.

You have a higher risk of type 2 diabetes if you are older, have obesity, have a family history of diabetes, or do not exercise. Having prediabetes also increases your risk. Prediabetes means that your blood sugar is higher than normal but not high enough to be called diabetes. If you are at risk for type 2 diabetes, you may be able to delay or prevent developing it by making some lifestyle changes.

Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
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