Diabetes mellitus, or as it's more commonly known diabetes, is a disease characterized by an excess of blood glucose, or blood sugar, which builds up in the bloodstream when your body isn't able to adequately process the sugar in food. High blood sugar is an abnormal state for the body and creates specific symptoms and possible long-term health problems if blood sugar is not managed well.

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.

There are many complications of diabetes. Knowing and understanding the signs of these complications is important. If caught early, some of these complications can be treated and prevented from getting worse. The best way to prevent complications of diabetes is to keep your blood sugars in good control. High glucose levels produce changes in the blood vessels themselves, as well as in blood cells (primarily erythrocytes) that impair blood flow to various organs.

Jump up ^ Rubino, F; Nathan, DM; Eckel, RH; Schauer, PR; Alberti, KG; Zimmet, PZ; Del Prato, S; Ji, L; Sadikot, SM; Herman, WH; Amiel, SA; Kaplan, LM; Taroncher-Oldenburg, G; Cummings, DE; Delegates of the 2nd Diabetes Surgery, Summit (June 2016). "Metabolic Surgery in the Treatment Algorithm for Type 2 Diabetes: A Joint Statement by International Diabetes Organizations". Diabetes Care. 39 (6): 861–77. doi:10.2337/dc16-0236. PMID 27222544.


Diabetes is a condition in which the body cannot properly store and use fuel for energy. The body's main fuel is a form of sugar called glucose, which comes from food (after it has been broken down). Glucose enters the blood and is used by cells for energy. To use glucose, the body needs a hormone called insulin that's made by the pancreas. Insulin is important because it allows glucose to leave the blood and enter the body's cells.
In type 2 diabetes (adult onset diabetes), the pancreas makes insulin, but it either doesn't produce enough, or the insulin does not work properly. Nine out of 10 people with diabetes have type 2. This type occurs most often in people who are over 40 years old but can occur even in childhood if there are risk factors present. Type 2 diabetes may sometimes be controlled with a combination of diet, weight management and exercise. However, treatment also may include oral glucose-lowering medications (taken by mouth) or insulin injections (shots).
Get Educated: The American Diabetes Association advises that all persons with diabetes receive diabetes self-management education (DSME) at diagnosis and thereafter. A certified diabetes educator or other qualified health professional can give you the tools you need to understand and take care of your diabetes. In addition, these individuals are trained to create a customized plan that works for you. Diabetes self-management education is a patient-centered approach that enables patients to get involved in their care.

In addition to learning about diabetes itself, older people may have to learn how to fit management of diabetes in with their management of other disorders. Learning about how to avoid complications, such as dehydration, skin breakdown, and circulation problems, and to manage factors that can contribute to complications of diabetes, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels, is especially important. Such problems become more common as people age, whether they have diabetes or not.
A chronic metabolic disorder marked by hyperglycemia. DM results either from failure of the pancreas to produce insulin (type 1 DM) or from insulin resistance, with inadequate insulin secretion to sustain normal metabolism (type 2 DM). Either type of DM may damage blood vessels, nerves, kidneys, the retina, and the developing fetus and the placenta during pregnancy. Type 1 or insulin-dependent DM has a prevalence of just 0.3 to 0.4%. Type 2 DM (formerly called adult-onset DM) has a prevalence in the general population of 6.6%. In some populations (such as older persons, Native Americans, African Americans, Pacific Islanders, Mexican Americans), it is present in nearly 20% of adults. Type 2 DM primarily affects obese middle-aged people with sedentary lifestyles, whereas type 1 DM usually occurs in children, most of whom are active and thin, although extremely obese children are now being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes as well. See: table; dawn phenomenon; insulin; insulin pump; insulin resistance; diabetic polyneuropathy; Somogyi phenomenon
With such a surplus of food nowadays, it's easy to overindulge without physical activity, leading to weight gain and, for some people, eventual Type 2 diabetes. "It's a lack of exercise and still eating like you're 20 years old," says Susan M. De Abate, a nurse and certified diabetes educator and team coordinator of the diabetes education program at Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital.
The problem with sweetened drinks is that, due to their liquid form, they’re among the fastest simple carbs to be digested in the body, causing blood sugar levels to spike even more than a simple carb in solid-food form would. Research supports this idea: A review published in November 2010 in the journal Diabetes Care suggested adding only one serving of a sweetened beverage to your diet may increase your risk for type 2 diabetes by 15 percent.

Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) resembles type 2 DM in several respects, involving a combination of relatively inadequate insulin secretion and responsiveness. It occurs in about 2–10% of all pregnancies and may improve or disappear after delivery.[50] However, after pregnancy approximately 5–10% of women with GDM are found to have DM, most commonly type 2.[50] GDM is fully treatable, but requires careful medical supervision throughout the pregnancy. Management may include dietary changes, blood glucose monitoring, and in some cases, insulin may be required.
6. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): This is a common cause of female infertility and insulin resistance. It can cause signs and symptoms like irregular periods, acne, thinning scalp hair, and excess hair growth on the face and body. High insulin levels also increase the risk of developing diabetes, and about half of women with PCOS develop diabetes.
Elevated homocysteine levels in the blood called hyperhomocysteinemia, is a sign that the body isn't producing enough of the amino acid homocysteine. is a rare and serious condition that may be inherited (genetic). People with homocystinuria die at an early age. Symptoms of hyperhomocysteinemia include developmental delays, osteoporosis, blood clots, heart attack, heart disease, stroke, and visual abnormalities.

Originally described in approximately 30% of patients with type 1 diabetes mellitus, limited joint mobility occurs in 50% of patients older than age 10 years who have had diabetes for longer than 5 years. The condition restricts joint extension, making it difficult to press the hands flat against each other. The skin of patients with severe joint involvement has a thickened and waxy appearance.
Insulin, a hormone released from the pancreas (an organ behind the stomach that also produces digestive enzymes), controls the amount of glucose in the blood. Glucose in the bloodstream stimulates the pancreas to produce insulin. Insulin helps glucose to move from the blood into the cells. Once inside the cells, glucose is converted to energy, which is used immediately, or the glucose is stored as fat or glycogen until it is needed.
Don’t be alarmed: This is not diabetic retinopathy, where the blood vessels in the back of the eye are getting destroyed, says Dr. Cypess. In the early stages of diabetes, the eye lens is not focusing well because glucose builds up in the eye, which temporarily changes its shape. “You’re not going blind from diabetes,” Dr. Cypess says he assures patients. “In about six to eight weeks after your blood sugars are stabilized, you’re not going to feel it anymore; the eye will adjust.” Here are more surprising facts you never knew about diabetes.
One of the most common ways people with type 2 diabetes attempt to lower their blood sugar is by drastically reducing their intake of carbs. The ADA agrees that carbohydrate counting is essential if you have diabetes, but extreme diets like the ketogenic diet, which reduces carb intake to as little as 5 percent of your daily calories, can be risky for some people with diabetes. (36)

When the glucose concentration in the blood remains high over time, the kidneys will reach a threshold of reabsorption, and glucose will be excreted in the urine (glycosuria).[62] This increases the osmotic pressure of the urine and inhibits reabsorption of water by the kidney, resulting in increased urine production (polyuria) and increased fluid loss. Lost blood volume will be replaced osmotically from water held in body cells and other body compartments, causing dehydration and increased thirst (polydipsia).[60]
Diabetes mellitus type 2 (also known as type 2 diabetes) is a long-term metabolic disorder that is characterized by high blood sugar, insulin resistance, and relative lack of insulin.[6] Common symptoms include increased thirst, frequent urination, and unexplained weight loss.[3] Symptoms may also include increased hunger, feeling tired, and sores that do not heal.[3] Often symptoms come on slowly.[6] Long-term complications from high blood sugar include heart disease, strokes, diabetic retinopathy which can result in blindness, kidney failure, and poor blood flow in the limbs which may lead to amputations.[1] The sudden onset of hyperosmolar hyperglycemic state may occur; however, ketoacidosis is uncommon.[4][5]
A random blood sugar of greater than 11.1 mmol/l (200 mg/dl) in association with typical symptoms[23] or a glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) of ≥ 48 mmol/mol (≥ 6.5 DCCT %) is another method of diagnosing diabetes.[10] In 2009 an International Expert Committee that included representatives of the American Diabetes Association (ADA), the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), and the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) recommended that a threshold of ≥ 48 mmol/mol (≥ 6.5 DCCT %) should be used to diagnose diabetes.[48] This recommendation was adopted by the American Diabetes Association in 2010.[49] Positive tests should be repeated unless the person presents with typical symptoms and blood sugars >11.1 mmol/l (>200 mg/dl).[48]

According to the American Diabetes Association, a child has a 1 in 7 risk of getting type 2 diabetes if his/her parent was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes before the age of 50, and a 1 in 13 risk of developing it if the parent was diagnosed after the age of 50. To see if you may be at risk for diabetes, consider taking this short and simple Type 2 Diabetes Risk Test from the ADA.
2.Retinopathy - Diabetes may cause blood vessels in the retina (the light sensitive lining of the eye) to become leaky, blocked, or grow abnormally [Figure 1]. Retinopathy is rare before the age of 10 and the risk increases with the length of time a person has diabetes. Treatments such as laser, injections in the eye, or other procedures may be helpful to prevent visual loss or restore sight. The longer a patient has diabetes, the greater chance of developing an eye problem.  All patients with diabetes are at risk for developing retinopathy, but the risk is higher for patients with worse blood sugar control.  Early retinopathy may have no symptoms, but early treatment is essential to prevent any loss of vision.
As part of proper diabetes management, it is important to be aware of the symptoms of abnormal blood glucose levels and know how to properly monitor your blood glucose levels using a home glucose meter. You should remember to always keep glucose tablets or candies containing sugar with you at all times to manage low blood glucose levels (hypoglycemia). Symptoms of low blood glucose include:

Diabetes Mellitus Diabetes Mellitus Complications Diabetes Mellitus Control in Hospital Diabetes Mellitus Glucose Management Diabetes Resources Diabetes Sick Day Management Diabetic Ketoacidosis Diabetic Ketoacidosis Management in Adults Diabetic Ketoacidosis Management in Children Diabetic Ketoacidosis Related Cerebral Edema Hyperosmolar Hyperglycemic State Metabolic Syndrome Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus in Children
Classic symptoms of DM are polyuria, polydipsia, and weight loss. In addition, patients with hyperglycemia often have blurred vision, increased food consumption (polyphagia), and generalized weakness. When a patient with type 1 DM loses metabolic control (such as during infections or periods of noncompliance with therapy), symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis occur. These may include nausea, vomiting, dizziness on arising, intoxication, delirium, coma, or death. Chronic complications of hyperglycemia include retinopathy and blindness, peripheral and autonomic neuropathies, glomerulosclerosis of the kidneys (with proteinuria, nephrotic syndrome, or end-stage renal failure), coronary and peripheral vascular disease, and reduced resistance to infections. Patients with DM often also sustain infected ulcerations of the feet, which may result in osteomyelitis and the need for amputation.
How to prevent type 2 diabetes: Six useful steps What are the risks factors for developing type 2 diabetes, and how can we prevent it? Some factors such as blood sugar levels, body weight, fiber intake, and stress can be controlled to some extent, but others, such as age and family history cannot. Find out more about reducing the risk of developing this condition. Read now
Originally described in approximately 30% of patients with type 1 diabetes mellitus, limited joint mobility occurs in 50% of patients older than age 10 years who have had diabetes for longer than 5 years. The condition restricts joint extension, making it difficult to press the hands flat against each other. The skin of patients with severe joint involvement has a thickened and waxy appearance.
There are many complications of diabetes. Knowing and understanding the signs of these complications is important. If caught early, some of these complications can be treated and prevented from getting worse. The best way to prevent complications of diabetes is to keep your blood sugars in good control. High glucose levels produce changes in the blood vessels themselves, as well as in blood cells (primarily erythrocytes) that impair blood flow to various organs.

The roots of type 2 diabetes remain in insulin resistance and pancreatic failure, and the blame for the current diabetes epidemic lies in an overall dietary pattern emphasizing meat, dairy products, and fatty foods, aided and abetted by sugary foods and beverages, rather than simply in sugar alone. A diet emphasizing vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes and avoiding animal products helps prevent diabetes and improves its management when it has been diagnosed. 
To treat diabetic retinopathy, a laser is used to destroy and prevent the recurrence of the development of these small aneurysms and brittle blood vessels. Approximately 50% of patients with diabetes will develop some degree of diabetic retinopathy after 10 years of diabetes, and 80% retinopathy after 15 years of the disease. Poor control of blood sugar and blood pressure further aggravates eye disease in diabetes.
Patient Education. Successful management of diabetes requires that the patient actively participate in and be committed to the regimen of care. The problem of poor control can cause serious or even deadly short-term and long-term complications, with devastating effects on the patient's longevity and sense of well being. There are many teaching aids available to help persons with diabetes understand their disease and comply with prescribed therapy. In general, a patient education program should include the following components:

Jump up ^ Kyu HH, Bachman VF, Alexander LT, Mumford JE, Afshin A, Estep K, Veerman JL, Delwiche K, Iannarone ML, Moyer ML, Cercy K, Vos T, Murray CJ, Forouzanfar MH (August 2016). "Physical activity and risk of breast cancer, colon cancer, diabetes, ischemic heart disease, and ischemic stroke events: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013". BMJ. 354: i3857. doi:10.1136/bmj.i3857. PMC 4979358. PMID 27510511.


There are many complications of diabetes. Knowing and understanding the signs of these complications is important. If caught early, some of these complications can be treated and prevented from getting worse. The best way to prevent complications of diabetes is to keep your blood sugars in good control. High glucose levels produce changes in the blood vessels themselves, as well as in blood cells (primarily erythrocytes) that impair blood flow to various organs.

There are a range of different symptoms in people with diabetes. They may feel thirsty, pass a large amount of urine, wake up overnight to pass urine, lose weight and have blurred vision. Patients are vulnerable to infections such as thrush and may present with this. Particularly in type 2 diabetes, patients may not be aware of their diabetes for several years and a diagnosis may only be made when they seek treatment for diabetes-related complications such as foot, eye or kidney problems. Some patients may become severely ill and be taken into hospital with an infection and/or very high blood sugar levels.

Patients need to ensure that their blood glucose levels are kept as normal as possible so that delicate tissues in the body (especially blood vessels in the eyes, kidneys and peripheral nerves) are not damaged by high glucose levels over a long period of time. To achieve this, patients need to measure their glucose regularly and learn how to adjust their insulin doses in order to optimise their glucose levels (diabetes control). Good diabetes control helps to minimise the risk of long-term diabetes complications, as well as short-term symptoms (such as thirst).


Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.
×