On behalf of the millions of Americans who live with or are at risk for diabetes, we are committed to helping you understand this chronic disease. Help us set the record straight and educate the world about diabetes and its risk factors by sharing the common questions and answers below. If you're new to type 2 diabetes, join our Living With Type 2 Diabetes program to get more facts.
Diabetes mellitus is a diagnostic term for a group of disorders characterized by abnormal glucose homeostasis resulting in elevated blood sugar. It is among the most common of chronic disorders, affecting up to 5–10% of the adult population of the Western world. The prevalence of diabetes is increasing dramatically; it has been estimated that the worldwide prevalence will increase by more than 50% between the years 2000 and 2030 (Wild et al., 2004). It is clearly established that diabetes mellitus is not a single disease, but a genetically heterogeneous group of disorders that share glucose intolerance in common. The concept of genetic heterogeneity (i.e. that different genetic and/or environmental etiologic factors can result in similar phenotypes) has significantly altered the genetic analysis of this common disorder.
Fasting glucose test This test involves giving a blood sample after you have fasted for eight hours. (18) If you have a fasting blood sugar level of less than 100 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl), your blood sugar levels are normal. But if you have one from 100 to 125 mg/dl, you have prediabetes, and if you have 126 mg/dl on two separate occasions, you have diabetes. (17)
Clear evidence suggests a genetic component in type 1 diabetes mellitus. Monozygotic twins have a 60% lifetime concordance for developing type 1 diabetes mellitus, although only 30% do so within 10 years after the first twin is diagnosed. In contrast, dizygotic twins have only an 8% risk of concordance, which is similar to the risk among other siblings.
Complications of diabetes are responsible for considerable morbidity and mortality. The acute complications of diabetes are hypo- and hyperglycemic coma and infections. The chronic complications include microvascular complications such as retinopathy and nephropathy, and the macrovascular complications of heart disease and stroke. Diabetes mellitus is the commonest cause of blindness and renal failure in the UK and the USA. Other common complications include autonomic and peripheral neuropathy. A combination of vascular and neuropathic disturbances results in a high prevalence of impotence in men with diabetes. Peripheral neuropathy causes lack of sensation in the feet which can cause minor injuries to go unnoticed, become infected and, with circulatory problems obstructing healing, ulceration and gangrene are serious risks and amputation is not uncommon. Evidence from meta-analysis of studies of the relationship between glycemic control and microvascular complications (Wang, Lau, & Chalmers, 1993), and from the longitudinal multicenter Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT) in the USA (DCCT Research Group, 1993), have established a clear relationship between improved blood glucose control and reduction of risk of retinopathy and other microvascular complications in insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM). It is likely that there would be similar findings for noninsulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) though the studies did not include NIDDM patients. However, the DCCT included highly selected, well-motivated, well-educated and well-supported patients, cared for by well-staffed diabetes care teams involving educators and psychologists as well as diabetologists and diabetes specialist nurses.
What is hypoglycemia? A blood sugar level of under 70 mg/dl (3.9 mmol/l) is typically considered hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), and can result in irritability, confusion, seizures, and even unconsciousness for extreme lows. To correct hypoglycemia, patients commonly use fast-acting carbohydrates. In extreme cases of severe hypoglycemia, a glucagon injection pen can be used. According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of hypoglycemia are:
Doctors and people with diabetes have observed that infections seem more common if you have diabetes. Research in this area, however, has not proved whether this is entirely true, nor why. It may be that high levels of blood sugar impair your body's natural healing process and your ability to fight infections. For women, bladder and vaginal infections are especially common.
If you are a diabetic and are pregnant you can have a normal, healthy pregnancy, but you need to take extra steps to avoid gaining excess weight and high blood sugars. Lifestyle habits (eating primarily vegetables and lean protein and exercising every day) will prevent problems during pregnancy. If you are a diabetic and become pregnant, monitor your blood sugar levels often. Talk with your doctor about exploring additional health care professionals, for example, a nutritionist, health coach, or naturopathic doctor about a healthy eating plan. If your blood sugar gets out of control you may:
Type 1 diabetes mellitus is a chronic metabolic syndrome defined by an inability to produce insulin, a hormone which lowers blood sugar. This leads to inappropriate hyperglycaemia (increased blood sugar levels) and deranged metabolism of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Insulin is normally produced in the pancreas, a glandular organ involved in the production of digestive enzymes and hormones such as insulin and glucagon. These functions are carried out in the exocrine and endocrine (Islets of Langerhans) pancreas respectively.
Home blood glucose self-monitoring is indispensable in helping patients to adjust daily insulin doses according to test results and to achieve optimal long-term control of diabetes. Insulin or other hypoglycemic agents are administered as prescribed, and their action and use explained to the patient. With help from a dietitian, a diet is planned based on the recommended amount of calories, protein, carbohydrates, and fats. The amount of carbohydrates consumed is a dietary key to managing glycemic control in diabetes. For most men, 60 to 75 carbohydrate g per meal are a reasonable intake; for most women, 45 to 60 g are appropriate. Saturated fats should be limited to less than 7% of total caloric intake, and trans-fatty acids (unsaturated fats with hydrogen added) minimized. A steady, consistent level of daily exercise is prescribed, and participation in a supervised exercise program is recommended.
The most common cause of acquired blindness in many developed nations, diabetic retinopathy is rare in the prepubertal child or within 5 years of onset of diabetes. The prevalence and severity of retinopathy increase with age and are greatest in patients whose diabetic control is poor.  Prevalence rates seem to be declining, yet an estimated 80% of people with type 1 diabetes mellitus develop retinopathy. 
Type 2 diabetes occurs when the pancreas does not make enough insulin or the body does not use insulin properly. It usually occurs in adults, although in some cases children may be affected. People with type 2 diabetes usually have a family history of this condition and 90% are overweight or obese. People with type 2 diabetes may eventually need insulin injections. This condition occurs most commonly in people of Indigenous and African descent, Hispanics, and Asians.
Diabetes is a metabolic disorder that occurs when your blood sugar (glucose), is too high (hyperglycemia). Glucose is what the body uses for energy, and the pancreas produces a hormone called insulin that helps convert the glucose from the food you eat into energy. When the body either does not produce enough insulin, does not produce any at all, or your body becomes resistant to the insulin, the glucose does not reach your cells to be used for energy. This results in the health condition termed diabetes.
Jump up ^ Palmer, Suetonia C.; Mavridis, Dimitris; Nicolucci, Antonio; Johnson, David W.; Tonelli, Marcello; Craig, Jonathan C.; Maggo, Jasjot; Gray, Vanessa; De Berardis, Giorgia; Ruospo, Marinella; Natale, Patrizia; Saglimbene, Valeria; Badve, Sunil V.; Cho, Yeoungjee; Nadeau-Fredette, Annie-Claire; Burke, Michael; Faruque, Labib; Lloyd, Anita; Ahmad, Nasreen; Liu, Yuanchen; Tiv, Sophanny; Wiebe, Natasha; Strippoli, Giovanni F.M. (19 July 2016). "Comparison of Clinical Outcomes and Adverse Events Associated With Glucose-Lowering Drugs in Patients With Type 2 Diabetes". JAMA: the Journal of the American Medical Association. 316 (3): 313–24. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.9400. PMID 27434443.
Home blood sugar (glucose) testing is an important part of controlling blood sugar. One important goal of diabetes treatment is to keep the blood glucose levels near the normal range of 70 to 120 mg/dl before meals and under 140 mg/dl at two hours after eating. Blood glucose levels are usually tested before and after meals, and at bedtime. The blood sugar level is typically determined by pricking a fingertip with a lancing device and applying the blood to a glucose meter, which reads the value. There are many meters on the market, for example, Accu-Check Advantage, One Touch Ultra, Sure Step and Freestyle. Each meter has its own advantages and disadvantages (some use less blood, some have a larger digital readout, some take a shorter time to give you results, etc.). The test results are then used to help patients make adjustments in medications, diets, and physical activities.
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.
By simultaneously considering insulin secretion and insulin action in any given individual, it becomes possible to account for the natural history of diabetes in that person (e.g., remission in a patient with T1 diabetes or ketoacidosis in a person with T2DM). Thus, diabetes mellitus may be the result of absolute insulin deficiency, or of absolute insulin resistance, or a combination of milder defects in both insulin secretion and insulin action.1 Collectively, the syndromes of diabetes mellitus are the most common endocrine/metabolic disorders of childhood and adolescence. The application of molecular biologic tools continues to provide remarkable insights into the etiology, pathophysiology, and genetics of the various forms of diabetes mellitus that result from deficient secretion of insulin or its action at the cellular level.
Managing your blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol, and quitting smoking if you smoke, are important ways to manage your type 2 diabetes. Lifestyle changes that include planning healthy meals, limiting calories if you are overweight, and being physically active are also part of managing your diabetes. So is taking any prescribed medicines. Work with your health care team to create a diabetes care plan that works for you.
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.
Home blood glucose monitoring kits are available so patients with diabetes can monitor their own levels. A small needle or lancet is used to prick the finger and a drop of blood is collected and analyzed by a monitoring device. Some patients may test their blood glucose levels several times during a day and use this information to adjust their doses of insulin.
Jump up ^ Zheng, Sean L.; Roddick, Alistair J.; Aghar-Jaffar, Rochan; Shun-Shin, Matthew J.; Francis, Darrel; Oliver, Nick; Meeran, Karim (17 April 2018). "Association Between Use of Sodium-Glucose Cotransporter 2 Inhibitors, Glucagon-like Peptide 1 Agonists, and Dipeptidyl Peptidase 4 Inhibitors With All-Cause Mortality in Patients With Type 2 Diabetes". JAMA. 319 (15): 1580. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.3024.
What you need to know about borderline diabetes Borderline diabetes, known as prediabetes, is a condition where blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not yet high enough to be type 2 diabetes. This MNT Knowledge Center article explains the signs to look out for, how to monitor the disease, and ways to prevent it becoming full diabetes. Read now