Diabetes mellitus is not a single disorder but a heterogeneous group of disorders. All forms are characterized by hyperglycemia and disturbances of carbohydrate, fat, and protein metabolism which are associated with absolute or relative deficiencies of insulin action and/or insulin secretion. The World Health Organization (WHO) developed a now widely accepted classification of the disorder, largely based on clinical characteristics (see Table 1, WHO, 1985).
Although some people with this type of diabetes are thin, the majority of people (90%) are overweight. Losing weight, even 2 kg to 5 kg (5 lbs to 10 lbs) can help lower blood glucose levels. For many people, following a healthy diet and an exercise program may be all that is needed to help control glucose levels. For others, healthy eating and exercise alone aren't enough to lower blood glucose levels.

Endocrinology A chronic condition which affects ±10% of the general population, characterized by ↑ serum glucose and a relative or absolute ↓ in pancreatic insulin production, or ↓ tissue responsiveness to insulin; if not properly controlled, the excess glucose damages blood vessels of the eyes, kidneys, nerves, heart Types Insulin dependent–type I and non-insulin dependent–type II diabetes Symptoms type 1 DM is associated with ↑ urine output, thirst, fatigue, and weight loss (despite an ↑ appetite), N&V; type 2 DM is associated with, in addition, non-healing ulcers, oral and bladder infections, blurred vision, paresthesias in the hands and feet, and itching Cardiovascular MI, stoke Eyes Retinal damage, blindness Legs/feet Nonhealing ulcers, cuts leading to gangrene and amputation Kidneys HTN, renal failure Neurology Paresthesias, neuropathy Diagnosis Serum glucose above cut-off points after meals or when fasting; once therapy is begun, serum levels of glycosylated Hb are measured periodically to assess adequacy of glucose control Management Therapy reflects type of DM; metformin and triglitazone have equal and additive effects on glycemic control Prognosis A function of stringency of glucose control and presence of complications. See ABCD Trial, Brittle diabetes, Bronze diabetes, Chemical diabetes, Gestational diabetes, Insulin-dependent diabetes, Metformin, MODY diabetes, Nephrogenic diabetes insipidus, Non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, Pseudodiabetes, Secondary diabetes, Starvation diabetes, Troglitazone.
Insulin — the hormone that allows your body to regulate sugar in the blood — is made in your pancreas. Essentially, insulin resistance is a state in which the body’s cells do not use insulin efficiently. As a result, it takes more insulin than normal to transport blood sugar (glucose) into cells, to be used immediately for fuel or stored for later use. A drop in efficiency in getting glucose to cells creates a problem for cell function; glucose is normally the body’s quickest and most readily available source of energy.

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. 

"Brittle" diabetes, also known as unstable diabetes or labile diabetes, is a term that was traditionally used to describe the dramatic and recurrent swings in glucose levels, often occurring for no apparent reason in insulin-dependent diabetes. This term, however, has no biologic basis and should not be used.[39] Still, type 1 diabetes can be accompanied by irregular and unpredictable high blood sugar levels, frequently with ketosis, and sometimes with serious low blood sugar levels. Other complications include an impaired counterregulatory response to low blood sugar, infection, gastroparesis (which leads to erratic absorption of dietary carbohydrates), and endocrinopathies (e.g., Addison's disease).[39] These phenomena are believed to occur no more frequently than in 1% to 2% of persons with type 1 diabetes.[40]
Jump up ^ McBrien, K; Rabi, DM; Campbell, N; Barnieh, L; Clement, F; Hemmelgarn, BR; Tonelli, M; Leiter, LA; Klarenbach, SW; Manns, BJ (6 August 2012). "Intensive and Standard Blood Pressure Targets in Patients With Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis". Archives of Internal Medicine. 172 (17): 1–8. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2012.3147. PMID 22868819.
[1] Diabetes Prevention Program Research Group. Long-term effects of lifestyle intervention or metformin on diabetes development and microvascular complications over 15-year follow-up: the Diabetes Prevention Program Outcomes Study. The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology. 2015;3(11):866‒875. You can find more information about this study on the Diabetes Prevention Program Outcomes Study website.
If genetics has taught us anything about diabetes, it's that, for most people, genes aren't the whole story. True, a few rare kinds of diabetes—including those collectively called MODY for maturity-onset diabetes of the young—have been traced to defects in a single gene. But for other types of diabetes, hereditary factors are still not well understood.
Although many of the symptoms of type 1 and type 2 diabetes are similar, they present in very different ways. Many people with type 2 diabetes won’t have symptoms for many years. Then often the symptoms of type 2 diabetes develop slowly over the course of time. Some people with type 2 diabetes have no symptoms at all and don’t discover their condition until complications develop.

The classic symptoms of diabetes are polyuria (frequent urination), polydipsia (increased thirst), polyphagia (increased hunger), and weight loss.[23] Other symptoms that are commonly present at diagnosis include a history of blurred vision, itchiness, peripheral neuropathy, recurrent vaginal infections, and fatigue.[13] Many people, however, have no symptoms during the first few years and are diagnosed on routine testing.[13] A small number of people with type 2 diabetes mellitus can develop a hyperosmolar hyperglycemic state (a condition of very high blood sugar associated with a decreased level of consciousness and low blood pressure).[13]
According to the National Institutes of Health, the reported rate of gestational diabetes is between 2% to 10% of pregnancies. Gestational diabetes usually resolves itself after pregnancy. Having gestational diabetes does, however, put mothers at risk for developing type 2 diabetes later in life. Up to 10% of women with gestational diabetes develop type 2 diabetes. It can occur anywhere from a few weeks after delivery to months or years later.
Jump up ^ 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. Winchester, England. 13 (41): iii–iv, 1–190, 215–357. doi:10.3310/hta13410. PMID 19726018.
Is type 2 diabetes serious? Type 2 diabetes is not a death sentence, but it is a very serious disease that demands attention and careful monitoring. There is no such thing as ‘mild’ diabetes. Elevated glucose levels can damage the nervous system, blood vessels, eyes, heart, and kidneys. These complications really impact quality of life (through blindness, amputations, dialysis etc). They also significantly increase the chance of a stroke or heart attack. Managing blood glucose levels immediately, along with other health risk factors (e.g., cholesterol, blood pressure, weight), is necessary for preventing these complications. Losing even a small amount of weight and keeping it off can also improve glucose control as well as have other clinical benefits (read more tips on managing diet and exercise below for more on weight loss). Keep in mind that better diabetes management also has benefits in the here and now – mood and energy levels are adversely affected when your glucose levels are high. 

Weight loss surgery in those with obesity and type two diabetes is often an effective measure.[14] Many are able to maintain normal blood sugar levels with little or no medications following surgery[95] and long-term mortality is decreased.[96] There is, however, a short-term mortality risk of less than 1% from the surgery.[97] The body mass index cutoffs for when surgery is appropriate are not yet clear.[96] It is recommended that this option be considered in those who are unable to get both their weight and blood sugar under control.[98]


Type 1 diabetes mellitus is predominantly a disease of the young, usually developing before 20 years of age. Overall, type I DM makes up approximately 15% of all cases of diabetes. It develops in approximately 1 in 600 children and is one of the most common chronic diseases in children. The incidence is relatively low for children under the age of 5, increases between 5 and 15, and then tapers off.

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.


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.
The information contained in this monograph is for educational purposes only. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have or suspect you may have a health concern, consult your professional health care provider. Reliance on any information provided in this monograph is solely at your own risk.
Progression toward type 2 diabetes may even be self-perpetuating. Once a person begins to become insulin resistant, for whatever reason, things may snowball from there. The increased levels of circulating insulin required to compensate for resistance encourage the body to pack on pounds. That extra weight will in turn make the body more insulin resistant. Furthermore, the heavier a person is, the more difficult it can be to exercise, continuing the slide toward diabetes.
Type 2 DM begins with insulin resistance, a condition in which cells fail to respond to insulin properly.[2] As the disease progresses, a lack of insulin may also develop.[12] This form was previously referred to as "non insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus" (NIDDM) or "adult-onset diabetes".[2] The most common cause is excessive body weight and insufficient exercise.[2]
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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
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