Diabetes mellitus is a diagnostic term for a group of disorders characterized by abnormal glucose homeostasis resulting in elevated blood sugar. There is variability in its manifestations, wherein some individuals have only asymptomatic glucose intolerance, while others present acutely with diabetic ketoacidosis, and still others develop chronic complications such as nephropathy, neuropathy, retinopathy, or accelerated atherosclerosis. It is among the most common of chronic disorders, affecting up to 5–10% of the adult population of the Western world. Its prevalence varies over the globe, with certain populations, including some American Indian tribes and the inhabitants of Micronesia and Polynesia, having extremely high rates of diabetes (1,2). The prevalence of diabetes is increasing dramatically and it has been estimated that the worldwide prevalence will increase by more than 50% between the years 2000 and 2030 (3).
The most common test used to diagnose diabetes is the fasting blood glucose. This test measures the glucose levels at a specific moment in time (normal is 80-110 mg/dl). In managing diabetes, the goal is to normalize blood glucose levels. It is generally accepted that by maintaining normalized blood glucose levels, one may delay or even prevent some of the complications associated with diabetes. Measures to manage diabetes include behavioral modification (proper diet, exercise) and drug therapies (oral hypoglycemics, insulin replacement). The choice of therapy prescribed takes into consideration the type and severity of the disease present and patient compliance. The physician may request the patient keep a log of their daily blood glucose measurements, in an effort to better assess therapeutic success. Another commonly obtained test is the hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), which is a surrogate marker used to assess blood glucose levels over an extended period (2-3 months). This test provides the physician with a good picture of the patient’s glucose levels over time.
Certain genetic markers have been shown to increase the risk of developing Type 1 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is strongly familial, but it is only recently that some genes have been consistently associated with increased risk for Type 2 diabetes in certain populations. Both types of diabetes are complex diseases caused by mutations in more than one gene, as well as by environmental factors.
Symptoms of type 1 diabetes can start quickly, in a matter of weeks. Symptoms of type 2 diabetes often develop slowly—over the course of several years—and can be so mild that you might not even notice them. Many people with type 2 diabetes have no symptoms. Some people do not find out they have the disease until they have diabetes-related health problems, such as blurred vision or heart trouble.

Type 2 diabetes was once rare in children and adolescents but has recently become more common. However, it usually begins in people older than 30 and becomes progressively more common with age. About 26% of people older than 65 have type 2 diabetes. People of certain racial and ethnic backgrounds are at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes: blacks, Asian Americans, American Indians, and people of Spanish or Latin American ancestry who live in the United States have a twofold to threefold increased risk as compared with whites. Type 2 diabetes also tends to run in families.

To measure blood glucose levels, a blood sample is usually taken after people have fasted overnight. However, it is possible to take blood samples after people have eaten. Some elevation of blood glucose levels after eating is normal, but even after a meal the levels should not be very high. Fasting blood glucose levels should never be higher than 125 mg/dL. Even after eating, blood glucose levels should not be higher than 199 mg/dL.

^ Jump up to: a b Picot J, Jones J, Colquitt JL, Gospodarevskaya E, Loveman E, Baxter L, Clegg AJ (September 2009). "The clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of bariatric (weight loss) surgery for obesity: a systematic review and economic evaluation". Health Technology Assessment. 13 (41): 1–190, 215–357, iii–iv. doi:10.3310/hta13410. PMID 19726018.

Insulin is vital to patients with type 1 diabetes - they cannot live without a source of exogenous insulin. Without insulin, patients with type 1 diabetes develop severely elevated blood sugar levels. This leads to increased urine glucose, which in turn leads to excessive loss of fluid and electrolytes in the urine. Lack of insulin also causes the inability to store fat and protein along with breakdown of existing fat and protein stores. This dysregulation, results in the process of ketosis and the release of ketones into the blood. Ketones turn the blood acidic, a condition called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). Symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis include nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Without prompt medical treatment, patients with diabetic ketoacidosis can rapidly go into shock, coma, and even death may result.

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.

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.

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Insulin works like a key that opens the doors to cells and lets the glucose in. Without insulin, glucose can't get into the cells (the doors are "locked" and there is no key) and so it stays in the bloodstream. As a result, the level of sugar in the blood remains higher than normal. High blood sugar levels are a problem because they can cause a number of health problems.
Several common medications can impair the body's use of insulin, causing a condition known as secondary diabetes. These medications include treatments for high blood pressure (furosemide, clonidine, and thiazide diuretics), drugs with hormonal activity (oral contraceptives, thyroid hormone, progestins, and glucocorticorids), and the anti-inflammation drug indomethacin. Several drugs that are used to treat mood disorders (such as anxiety and depression) also can impair glucose absorption. These drugs include haloperidol, lithium carbonate, phenothiazines, tricyclic antidepressants, and adrenergic agonists. Other medications that can cause diabetes symptoms include isoniazid, nicotinic acid, cimetidine, and heparin. A 2004 study found that low levels of the essential mineral chromium in the body may be linked to increased risk for diseases associated with insulin resistance.
Management of type 2 diabetes focuses on lifestyle interventions, lowering other cardiovascular risk factors, and maintaining blood glucose levels in the normal range.[24] Self-monitoring of blood glucose for people with newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes may be used in combination with education,[70] however the benefit of self monitoring in those not using multi-dose insulin is questionable.[24][71] In those who do not want to measure blood levels, measuring urine levels may be done.[70] Managing other cardiovascular risk factors, such as hypertension, high cholesterol, and microalbuminuria, improves a person's life expectancy.[24] Decreasing the systolic blood pressure to less than 140 mmHg is associated with a lower risk of death and better outcomes.[72] Intensive blood pressure management (less than 130/80 mmHg) as opposed to standard blood pressure management (less than 140-160 mmHg systolic to 85–100 mmHg diastolic) results in a slight decrease in stroke risk but no effect on overall risk of death.[73]

Unlike many health conditions, diabetes is managed mostly by you, with support from your health care team (including your primary care doctor, foot doctor, dentist, eye doctor, registered dietitian nutritionist, diabetes educator, and pharmacist), family, and other important people in your life. Managing diabetes can be challenging, but everything you do to improve your health is worth it!
^ Jump up to: a b Funnell, Martha M.; Anderson, Robert M. (2008). "Influencing self-management: from compliance to collaboration". In Feinglos, Mark N.; Bethel, M. Angelyn. Type 2 diabetes mellitus: an evidence-based approach to practical management. Contemporary endocrinology. Totowa, NJ: Humana Press. p. 462. ISBN 978-1-58829-794-5. OCLC 261324723.

One of the key factors in Joslin’s treatment of diabetes is tight blood glucose control, so be certain that your treatment helps get your blood glucose readings as close to normal as safely possible. Patients should discuss with their doctors what their target blood glucose range is. It is also important to determine what your goal is for A1C readings (a test that determines how well your diabetes is controlled over the past 2-3 months). By maintaining blood glucose in the desired range, you’ll likely avoid many of the complications some people with diabetes face.
How is it treated? There is no uniform therapy for type 2 diabetes treatment, which depends on the individual person and his or her stage of type 2 diabetes. To learn more about individualization of therapy, please read our patient guide. That said, the ADA and EASD have created treatment recommendation guidelines for type 2 diabetes progression. In all cases, healthy eating, exercise, and weight management are key to effective type 2 diabetes management. As type 2 diabetes progresses, patients may need to add one or more drugs to their treatment regimen.
Sources of processed or added sugar, including condiments, honey, and especially sugary drinks, are just a few of the potential culprits for weight gain, Grieger says, and it’s when they’re consumed in excess that they can contribute to diabetes risk. “The largest source of added sugar comes from sweetened beverages. They run the gamut of soda, sweetened tea, juices with added sugar, sports drinks — it’s a plethora. Just about everything we drink has added sugar in it, except for water,” she explains.
Talk with your doctor about connecting with a certified diabetes educator and receiving diabetes self-management education. Learning about what to eat, what your medicines do, and how to test your blood sugars are just some of the things these resources can help with. Educators can also dispel myths, create meal plans, coordinate other doctors appointments for you, and listen to your needs. They are trained to teach using a patient-centered approach. They are your advocates who specialize in diabetes. Ask your doctor today or go to the American Association of Diabetes Educators website to find someone near you. Be sure to call your insurance company to see if these services are covered, too.

In the United States alone, more than 8 million people have undiagnosed diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. But you don't need to become a statistic. Understanding possible diabetes symptoms can lead to early diagnosis and treatment — and a lifetime of better health. If you're experiencing any of the following diabetes signs and symptoms, see your doctor.

In countries using a general practitioner system, such as the United Kingdom, care may take place mainly outside hospitals, with hospital-based specialist care used only in case of complications, difficult blood sugar control, or research projects. In other circumstances, general practitioners and specialists share care in a team approach. Home telehealth support can be an effective management technique.[100]


Occasionally, a child with hypoglycemic coma may not recover within 10 minutes, despite appropriate therapy. Under no circumstances should further treatment be given, especially intravenous glucose, until the blood glucose level is checked and still found to be subnormal. Overtreatment of hypoglycemia can lead to cerebral edema and death. If coma persists, seek other causes.
Though it may be transient, untreated GDM can damage the health of the fetus or mother. Risks to the baby include macrosomia (high birth weight), congenital heart and central nervous system abnormalities, and skeletal muscle malformations. Increased levels of insulin in a fetus's blood may inhibit fetal surfactant production and cause infant respiratory distress syndrome. A high blood bilirubin level may result from red blood cell destruction. In severe cases, perinatal death may occur, most commonly as a result of poor placental perfusion due to vascular impairment. Labor induction may be indicated with decreased placental function. A caesarean section may be performed if there is marked fetal distress or an increased risk of injury associated with macrosomia, such as shoulder dystocia.[51]
Jump up ^ Kyu, Hmwe H.; Bachman, Victoria F.; Alexander, Lily T.; Mumford, John Everett; Afshin, Ashkan; Estep, Kara; Veerman, J. Lennert; Delwiche, Kristen; Iannarone, Marissa L.; Moyer, Madeline L.; Cercy, Kelly; Vos, Theo; Murray, Christopher J.L.; Forouzanfar, Mohammad H. (9 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". The BMJ. 354: i3857. doi:10.1136/bmj.i3857. PMC 4979358. PMID 27510511.

The woman’s weight may also play a role. Changing hormone levels and weight gain are part of a healthy pregnancy, but both changes make it more difficult for the body to keep up with its need for insulin. This may lead to gestational diabetes. As pregnancy progresses, the placenta also produces insulin-blocking hormones, which might result in a woman’s blood-glucose levels becoming elevated if there isn’t enough insulin to counter this effect.


The more common form of diabetes, Type II, occurs in approximately 3-5% of Americans under 50 years of age, and increases to 10-15% in those over 50. More than 90% of the diabetics in the United States are Type II diabetics. Sometimes called age-onset or adult-onset diabetes, this form of diabetes occurs most often in people who are overweight and who do not exercise. It is also more common in people of Native American, Hispanic, and African-American descent. People who have migrated to Western cultures from East India, Japan, and Australian Aboriginal cultures also are more likely to develop Type II diabetes than those who remain in their original countries.
Diabetes mellitus is a diagnostic term for a group of disorders characterized by abnormal glucose homeostasis resulting in elevated blood sugar. There is variability in its manifestations, wherein some individuals have only asymptomatic glucose intolerance, while others present acutely with diabetic ketoacidosis, and still others develop chronic complications such as nephropathy, neuropathy, retinopathy, or accelerated atherosclerosis. It is among the most common of chronic disorders, affecting up to 5–10% of the adult population of the Western world. Its prevalence varies over the globe, with certain populations, including some American Indian tribes and the inhabitants of Micronesia and Polynesia, having extremely high rates of diabetes (1,2). The prevalence of diabetes is increasing dramatically and it has been estimated that the worldwide prevalence will increase by more than 50% between the years 2000 and 2030 (3).
Findings from the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT) and the United Kingdom Prospective Diabetes Study (UKPDS) have clearly shown that aggressive and intensive control of elevated levels of blood sugar in patients with type 1 and type 2 diabetes decreases the complications of nephropathy, neuropathy, retinopathy, and may reduce the occurrence and severity of large blood vessel diseases. Aggressive control with intensive therapy means achieving fasting glucose levels between 70-120 mg/dl; glucose levels of less than 160 mg/dl after meals; and a near normal hemoglobin A1c levels (see below).
The term brittle diabetes has been used to refer to people who have dramatic recurrent swings in blood glucose levels, often for no apparent reason. However, this term is no longer used. People with type 1 diabetes may have more frequent swings in blood glucose levels because insulin production is completely absent. Infection, delayed movement of food through the stomach, and other hormonal disorders may also contribute to blood glucose swings. In all people who have difficulty controlling blood glucose, doctors look for other disorders that might be causing the problem and also give people additional education on how to monitor diabetes and take their drugs.
In type 1 diabetes (formerly called insulin-dependent diabetes or juvenile-onset diabetes), the body's immune system attacks the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas, and more than 90% of them are permanently destroyed. The pancreas, therefore, produces little or no insulin. Only about 5 to 10% of all people with diabetes have type 1 disease. Most people who have type 1 diabetes develop the disease before age 30, although it can develop later in life.
The good news is that behavior still seems to help shape whether someone with the genetic disposition actually develops type 2—and that changes in diet and exercise can sometimes be enough to ward off the disease. "People sometimes have the misconception that if we say something is genetic, then they can't do anything about preventing diabetes and its complications," says Hanis. But he notes that in a landmark study, lifestyle interventions prevented or delayed type 2 in nearly 60 percent of people at high risk. "If we focus on changing the environment, we can prevent diabetes," he says. "As we understand the genetics, we can prevent more of it."
John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.
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