Insulin is a hormone that — in people without diabetes — ferries glucose, or blood sugar, to cells for energy or to be stored for later use. In people with diabetes, cells are resistant to insulin; as a result of this insulin resistance, sugar accumulates in the blood. While eating sugar by itself does not cause insulin resistance, Grieger says, foods with sugar and fat can contribute to weight gain, thereby reducing insulin sensitivity in the body.
History of diabetes: Past treatments and new discoveries Diabetes has been known for at least 2,000 years. Over the years, treatments have included exercise, riding on horseback, drinking wine, consuming milk or rice, opium, and overfeeding. It was not until 1921 that insulin was introduced as a treatment. Science has progressed, but diabetes remains a major health problem. Read now
Insulin inhibits glucogenesis and glycogenolysis, while stimulating glucose uptake. In nondiabetic individuals, insulin production by the pancreatic islet cells is suppressed when blood glucose levels fall below 83 mg/dL (4.6 mmol/L). If insulin is injected into a treated child with diabetes who has not eaten adequate amounts of carbohydrates, blood glucose levels progressively fall.

Intensive blood sugar lowering (HbA1c<6%) as opposed to standard blood sugar lowering (HbA1c of 7–7.9%) does not appear to change mortality.[74][75] The goal of treatment is typically an HbA1c of 7 to 8% or a fasting glucose of less than 7.2 mmol/L (130 mg/dl); however these goals may be changed after professional clinical consultation, taking into account particular risks of hypoglycemia and life expectancy.[59][76][77] Despite guidelines recommending that intensive blood sugar control be based on balancing immediate harms with long-term benefits, many people – for example people with a life expectancy of less than nine years who will not benefit, are over-treated.[78]

The WHO estimates that diabetes mellitus resulted in 1.5 million deaths in 2012, making it the 8th leading cause of death.[9][101] However another 2.2 million deaths worldwide were attributable to high blood glucose and the increased risks of cardiovascular disease and other associated complications (e.g. kidney failure), which often lead to premature death and are often listed as the underlying cause on death certificates rather than diabetes.[101][104] For example, in 2014, the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) estimated that diabetes resulted in 4.9 million deaths worldwide,[19] using modeling to estimate the total number of deaths that could be directly or indirectly attributed to diabetes.[20]


Sources of complex carbohydrates include whole-wheat bread and brown rice, legumes like black beans, and quinoa. These foods contain fiber, vitamins, and minerals that are appropriate for any eating plan, regardless of whether you have prediabetes, have diabetes, or are perfectly healthy. In fact, experts know including complex carbs in your daily diet can help you maintain a healthy weight, among other health benefits.
ORAL GLUCOSE TOLERANCE TEST. Blood samples are taken from a vein before and after a patient drinks a thick, sweet syrup of glucose and other sugars. In a non-diabetic, the level of glucose in the blood goes up immediately after the drink and then decreases gradually as insulin is used by the body to metabolize, or absorb, the sugar. In a diabetic, the glucose in the blood goes up and stays high after drinking the sweetened liquid. A plasma glucose level of 11.1 mmol/L (200 mg/dL) or higher at two hours after drinking the syrup and at one other point during the two-hour test period confirms the diagnosis of diabetes.
Patients with type 2 diabetes can still make insulin, but not enough to control their glucose levels. Type 2 diabetes is therefore initially treated with a combination of lifestyle changes (diet and exercise) which reduce the need for insulin and therefore lower glucose levels. If this is insufficient to achieve good glucose control, a range of tablets are available. These include metformin and pioglitazone, which, like diet and exercise, reduce insulin requirements; sulphonylureas (e.g. gliclazide), which stimulate insulin secretion; DPP4 inhibitors (e.g sitagliptin) and GLP-1 agonists (e.g. liraglutide), which stimulate insulin production and reduce appetite; and SGLT2 inhibitors (e.g. dapagliflozin), which lower blood sugar levels by causing sugar to pass out of the body in the urine. In many patients, particularly after several years of treatment, insulin production is so low or so insufficient compared with the patient's needs that patients with type 2 diabetes have to be treated with insulin injections, either alone or in combination with tablets.
Diabetes mellitus (DM) is best defined as a syndrome characterized by inappropriate fasting or postprandial hyperglycemia, caused by absolute or relative insulin deficiency and its metabolic consequences, which include disturbed metabolism of protein and fat. This syndrome results from a combination of deficiency of insulin secretion and its action. Diabetes mellitus occurs when the normal constant of the product of insulin secretion times insulin sensitivity, a parabolic function termed the “disposition index” (Figure 19-1), is inadequate to prevent hyperglycemia and its clinical consequences of polyuria, polydipsia, and weight loss. At high degrees of insulin sensitivity, small declines in the ability to secrete insulin cause only mild, clinically imperceptible defects in glucose metabolism. However, irrespective of insulin sensitivity, a minimum amount of insulin is necessary for normal metabolism. Thus, near absolute deficiency of insulin must result in severe metabolic disturbance as occurs in type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM). By contrast, with decreasing sensitivity to its action, higher amounts of insulin secretion are required for a normal disposition index. At a critical point in the disposition index curve (see Figure 19-1), a further small decrement in insulin sensitivity requires a large increase in insulin secretion; those who can mount these higher rates of insulin secretion retain normal glucose metabolism, whereas those who cannot increase their insulin secretion because of genetic or acquired defects now manifest clinical diabetes as occurs in type 2 diabetes (T2DM).
A second theory, dubbed the hygiene hypothesis, blames the rise of type 1 on a society that's too clean. Good housekeeping and hygiene habits mean far fewer interactions with germs, which in turn may foster an immune system prone to going awry. "In a developing country, you have more infectious disease. This is associated with a lower risk of type 1 diabetes," says Li Wen, MD, PhD, an immunologist at the Yale University School of Medicine. In her lab, rodents raised in hyper-clean environments are more likely to get type 1 than those reared in dirtier cages.
Dr. Erica Oberg, ND, MPH, received a BA in anthropology from the University of Colorado, her doctorate of naturopathic medicine (ND) from Bastyr University, and a masters of public health (MPH) in health services research from the University of Washington. She completed her residency at the Bastyr Center for Natural Health in ambulatory primary care and fellowship training at the Health Promotion Research Center at the University of Washington.

Then, once you do have an injury, uncontrolled diabetes can make it harder for your body to heal. “High blood sugars provide a good environment for bacteria to grow,” she says. That's because diabetes is also often accompanied by high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and the resulting plaque buildup can narrow blood vessels, reducing blood supply and leading to slow healing.
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]

Another dipstick test can determine the presence of protein or albumin in the urine. Protein in the urine can indicate problems with kidney function and can be used to track the development of renal failure. A more sensitive test for urine protein uses radioactively tagged chemicals to detect microalbuminuria, small amounts of protein in the urine, that may not show up on dipstick tests.


Manage mild hypoglycemia by giving rapidly absorbed oral carbohydrate or glucose; for a comatose patient, administer an intramuscular injection of the hormone glucagon, which stimulates the release of liver glycogen and releases glucose into the circulation. Where appropriate, an alternative therapy is intravenous glucose (preferably no more than a 10% glucose solution). All treatments for hypoglycemia provide recovery in approximately 10 minutes. (See Treatment.)
Culturally appropriate education may help people with type 2 diabetes control their blood sugar levels, for up to 24 months.[89] If changes in lifestyle in those with mild diabetes has not resulted in improved blood sugars within six weeks, medications should then be considered.[23] There is not enough evidence to determine if lifestyle interventions affect mortality in those who already have DM2.[62]
Damage to small blood vessels can affect the eyes, kidneys, and nerves. Damage to eyes, specifically the retina, is called diabetic retinopathy and is the leading cause of blindness. Damage to the kidneys, called diabetic nephropathy, can lead to kidney failure and the need for dialysis. Damage to the nerves that supply the legs and arms and gastrointestinal tract is called diabetic neuropathy. Some people with diabetes who develop peripheral neuropathy (damage to the nerves in the legs) and have poor blood flow to the legs may eventually need an amputation.

Type 2 diabetes is due to insufficient insulin production from beta cells in the setting of insulin resistance.[13] Insulin resistance, which is the inability of cells to respond adequately to normal levels of insulin, occurs primarily within the muscles, liver, and fat tissue.[44] In the liver, insulin normally suppresses glucose release. However, in the setting of insulin resistance, the liver inappropriately releases glucose into the blood.[10] The proportion of insulin resistance versus beta cell dysfunction differs among individuals, with some having primarily insulin resistance and only a minor defect in insulin secretion and others with slight insulin resistance and primarily a lack of insulin secretion.[13]
ORAL GLUCOSE TOLERANCE TEST. Blood samples are taken from a vein before and after a patient drinks a thick, sweet syrup of glucose and other sugars. In a non-diabetic, the level of glucose in the blood goes up immediately after the drink and then decreases gradually as insulin is used by the body to metabolize, or absorb, the sugar. In a diabetic, the glucose in the blood goes up and stays high after drinking the sweetened liquid. A plasma glucose level of 11.1 mmol/L (200 mg/dL) or higher at two hours after drinking the syrup and at one other point during the two-hour test period confirms the diagnosis of diabetes.
About 40% of diabetes sufferers require oral agents for satisfactory blood glucose control, and some 40% need insulin injections. This hormone was isolated by Frederic Banting and Charles Best in 1921 in Canada. It revolutionized the treatment of diabetes and prevention of its complications, transforming Type 1 diabetes from a fatal disease to one in which long-term survival became achievable.

Constant advances are being made in development of new oral medications for persons with diabetes. In 2003, a drug called Metaglip combining glipizide and metformin was approved in a dingle tablet. Along with diet and exercise, the drug was used as initial therapy for Type 2 diabetes. Another drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) combines metformin and rosiglitazone (Avandia), a medication that increases muscle cells' sensitivity to insulin. It is marketed under the name Avandamet. So many new drugs are under development that it is best to stay in touch with a physician for the latest information; physicians can find the best drug, diet and exercise program to fit an individual patient's need.


Retinopathy: If blood sugar levels are too high, they can damage the eyes and cause vision loss and blindness. Retinopathy causes the development and leaking of new blood vessels behind the eye. Other effects of diabetes, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, can make this worse. According to the CDC, early treatment can prevent or reduce the risk of blindness in an estimated 90 percent of people with diabetes.
This information is not designed to replace a physician's independent judgment about the appropriateness or risks of a procedure for a given patient. Always consult your doctor about your medical conditions. Vertical Health & EndocrineWeb do not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Use of this website is conditional upon your acceptance of our user agreement.
Talking to a counselor or therapist may help you cope with the lifestyle changes that come with a type 2 diabetes diagnosis. You may find encouragement and understanding in a type 2 diabetes support group. Although support groups aren't for everyone, they can be good sources of information. Group members often know about the latest treatments and tend to share their own experiences or helpful information, such as where to find carbohydrate counts for your favorite takeout restaurant. If you're interested, your doctor may be able to recommend a group in your area.
The food that people eat provides the body with glucose, which is used by the cells as a source of energy. If insulin isn't available or doesn't work correctly to move glucose from the blood into cells, glucose will stay in the blood. High blood glucose levels are toxic, and cells that don't get glucose are lacking the fuel they need to function properly.
Metformin (Glucophage, Glucophage XR, Glumetza, Fortamet, Riomet) belongs to a class of drugs called biguanides. Metformin is first-line therapy for most type 2 diabetics. It works to stop the liver from making excess glucose, and has a low risk of hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia, or very low blood sugar can cause symptoms such as sweating, nervousness, heart palpitations, weakness, intense hunger, trembling, and problems speaking. Many patients lose some weight taking metformin, which is also helpful for blood sugar control.
More common in adults, type 2 diabetes increasingly affects children as childhood obesity increases. There's no cure for type 2 diabetes, but you may be able to manage the condition by eating well, exercising and maintaining a healthy weight. If diet and exercise aren't enough to manage your blood sugar well, you also may need diabetes medications or insulin therapy.
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.
Many studies have shown that awareness about the diabetes and its complications is poor among the general population specially in the rural areas6,7. There is an urgent need to create awareness among the population regarding diabetes and about the serious consequences of this chronic disorder. Epidemiological data from India have shown the presence of a number of risk factors which can be easily identified by simple non-invasive risk scores8,9. The major risk factors are listed in Box 1.
Talking to a counselor or therapist may help you cope with the lifestyle changes that come with a type 2 diabetes diagnosis. You may find encouragement and understanding in a type 2 diabetes support group. Although support groups aren't for everyone, they can be good sources of information. Group members often know about the latest treatments and tend to share their own experiences or helpful information, such as where to find carbohydrate counts for your favorite takeout restaurant. If you're interested, your doctor may be able to recommend a group in your area.
Hyperglycemic hyperosmolar nonketotic syndrome (HHNS). Signs and symptoms of this life-threatening condition include a blood sugar reading higher than 600 mg/dL (33.3 mmol/L), dry mouth, extreme thirst, fever greater than 101 F (38 C), drowsiness, confusion, vision loss, hallucinations and dark urine. Your blood sugar monitor may not be able to give you an exact reading at such high levels and may instead just read "high."
Type 1 DM is caused by autoimmune destruction of the insulin-secreting beta cells of the pancreas. The loss of these cells results in nearly complete insulin deficiency; without exogenous insulin, type 1 DM is rapidly fatal. Type 2 DM results partly from a decreased sensitivity of muscle cells to insulin-mediated glucose uptake and partly from a relative decrease in pancreatic insulin secretion.
Supporting evidence for Shulman's theory comes from observations about a rare genetic illness called lipodystrophy. People with lipodystrophy can't make fat tissue, which is where fat should properly be stored. These thin people also develop severe insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. "They have fat stored in places it doesn't belong," like the liver and muscles, says Shulman. "When we treat them . . . we melt the fat away, reversing insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes." Shulman's theory also suggests why some people who carry extra fat don't get type 2. "There are some individuals who store fat [under the skin] who have relatively normal insulin sensitivity, a so-called fit fat individual," he says. Because of the way their bodies store fat, he believes, they don't get diabetes.
Insulin is needed to allow glucose to pass from the blood into most of the body cells. Only the cells of the brain and central nervous system can use glucose from the blood in the absence of insulin. Without insulin, most body cells metabolize substances other than glucose for energy. However, fat metabolism in the absence of glucose metabolism, creates ketone bodies which are poisonous and their build up is associated with hyperglycemic coma. In the absence of sufficient insulin, unmetabolized glucose builds up in the blood. Water is drawn from body cells by osmosis to dilute the highly concentrated blood, and is then excreted along with much of the glucose, once the renal threshold for glucose (usually 10 mmol/L) is exceeded. Dehydration follows.
Type 2 diabetes is often treated with oral medication because many people with this type of diabetes make some insulin on their own. The pills people take to control type 2 diabetes do not contain insulin. Instead, medications such as metformin, sulfonylureas, alpha-glucosidase inhibitors and many others are used to make the insulin that the body still produces more effective.
When you have diabetes, your body becomes less efficient at breaking food down into sugar, so you have more sugar sitting in your bloodstream, says Dobbins. “Your body gets rid of it by flushing it out in the urine.” So going to the bathroom a lot could be one of the diabetes symptoms you’re missing. Most patients aren’t necessarily aware of how often they use the bathroom, says Dr. Cypess. “When we ask about it, we often hear, ‘Oh yeah, I guess I’m going more often than I used to,’” he says. But one red flag is whether the need to urinate keeps you up at night. Once or twice might be normal, but if it’s affecting your ability to sleep, that could be a diabetes symptom to pay attention to. Make sure you know these diabetes myths that could sabotage your health.

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.
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.
There are other factors that also fall into the category of environmental (as opposed to genetic) causes of diabetes. Certain injuries to the pancreas, from physical trauma or from drugs, can harm beta cells, leading to diabetes. Studies have also found that people who live in polluted areas are prone to type 2, perhaps because of inflammation. And an alternate theory of insulin resistance places the blame on damage caused by inflammation. Age also factors into type 2; beta cells can wear out over time and become less capable of producing enough insulin to overcome insulin resistance, which is why older people are at greater risk of type 2.
In general, women live longer than men do because they have a lower risk of heart disease, but when women develop diabetes, their risk for heart disease skyrockets, and death by heart failure is more likely in women than in men. Another study also found that in people with diabetes, heart attacks are more often fatal for women than they are for men. Other examples of how diabetes affects women differently than men are:
×