Your body is like a car—it needs fuel to function. Its primary source of fuel is glucose (sugar), which is gained from foods that contain carbohydrates that get broken down. Insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, takes sugar from your blood to your cells to use for energy. However, when you have diabetes, either your pancreas isn't making enough insulin or the insulin that your body is making isn't being used the way it's supposed to be, typically because the cells become resistant to it.

While many experts believe that most type 1 genes have been identified, the situation with type 2 diabetes is much different. A recent study found that the known genetic links to type 2 probably account for only about 6 percent of the genetic predisposition for that form of diabetes. This could mean either that some of the genes discovered have a bigger effect than is currently believed or that "we are still missing 94 percent of the genes," says Atul Butte, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Stanford University.


In people with type 1 diabetes, the symptoms often begin abruptly and dramatically. A serious condition called diabetic ketoacidosis, a complication in which the body produces excess acid, may quickly develop. In addition to the usual diabetes symptoms of excessive thirst and urination, the initial symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis also include nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and—particularly in children—abdominal pain. Breathing tends to become deep and rapid as the body attempts to correct the blood’s acidity (see Acidosis), and the breath smells fruity and like nail polish remover. Without treatment, diabetic ketoacidosis can progress to coma and death, sometimes very quickly.


Getting diagnosed with diabetes can be shocking, but the good news is that, although it is a disease you must deal with daily, it is a manageable one. If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, especially if you are someone who is at high risk, you should meet with your primary care physician to get tested. The earlier a diagnosis is made, the more likely you can get your diabetes under control and prevent complications.

According to the Mayo Clinic, doctors may use other tests to diagnose diabetes. For example, they may conduct a fasting blood glucose test, which is a blood glucose test done after a night of fasting. While a fasting blood sugar level of less than 100 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) is normal, one that is between 100 to 125 mg/dL signals prediabetes, and a reading that reaches 126 mg/dL on two separate occasions means you have diabetes.

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