To understand why insulin is important, it helps to know more about how the body uses food for energy. Your body is made up of millions of cells. To make energy, these cells need food in a very simple form. When you eat or drink, much of the food is broken down into a simple sugar called "glucose." Then, glucose is transported through the bloodstream to these cells where it can be used to provide the energy the body needs for daily activities.


Being overweight is a risk factor for developing diabetes, but other risk factors such as how much physical activity you get, family history, ethnicity, and age also play a role. Unfortunately, many people think that weight is the only risk factor for type 2 diabetes, but many people with type 2 diabetes are at a normal weight or only moderately overweight.
Risk factors for type 2 diabetes include obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and physical inactivity. The risk of developing type 2 diabetes also increases as people grow older. People who are over 40 and overweight are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, although the incidence of this type of diabetes in adolescents is growing. Diabetes is more common among Native Americans, African Americans, Hispanic Americans and Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders. Also, people who develop diabetes while pregnant (a condition called gestational diabetes) are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life.
If you recognize any of the symptoms, contact your doctor immediately. A simple in-office test for sugar in the urine is used for diagnosis. If that test is positive, then a drop of blood from the fingertip will confirm diabetes. Every day, thousands of adults and children around the world are diagnosed, but many go undetected. Early diagnosis cannot prevent Type 1, but it can head off potentially devastating, even fatal, health concerns.

Watch for thirst or a very dry mouth, frequent urination, vomiting, shortness of breath, fatigue and fruity-smelling breath. You can check your urine for excess ketones with an over-the-counter ketones test kit. If you have excess ketones in your urine, consult your doctor right away or seek emergency care. This condition is more common in people with type 1 diabetes but can sometimes occur in people with type 2 diabetes.

In type 2 diabetes (adult onset diabetes), the pancreas makes insulin, but it either doesn't produce enough, or the insulin does not work properly. Nine out of 10 people with diabetes have type 2. This type occurs most often in people who are over 40 years old but can occur even in childhood if there are risk factors present. Type 2 diabetes may sometimes be controlled with a combination of diet, weight management and exercise. However, treatment also may include oral glucose-lowering medications (taken by mouth) or insulin injections (shots).
Because both yeast and bacteria multiply more quickly when blood sugar levels are elevated, women with diabetes are overall at a higher risk of feminine health issues, such as bacterial infections, yeast infections, and vaginal thrush, especially when blood sugar isn't well controlled. And a lack of awareness about having prediabetes or diabetes can make managing blood sugar impossible.
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.
Diabetes mellitus, or simply diabetes, is a group of diseases in which a person does not produce enough insulin, or because it does not respond to the insulin that is produced. Insulin is a hormone that controls the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood. Diabetes leads to high blood sugar levels, which can lead to damage of blood vessels, organs, and nerves.
*All medications have both common (generic) and brand names. The brand name is what a specific manufacturer calls the product (e.g., Tylenol®). The common name is the medical name for the medication (e.g., acetaminophen). A medication may have many brand names, but only one common name. This article lists medications by their common names. For information on a given medication, check our Drug Information database. For more information on brand names, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.
Our bodies break down the foods we eat into glucose and other nutrients we need, which are then absorbed into the bloodstream from the gastrointestinal tract. The glucose level in the blood rises after a meal and triggers the pancreas to make the hormone insulin and release it into the bloodstream. But in people with diabetes, the body either can't make or can't respond to insulin properly.

Learning about the disease and actively participating in the treatment is important, since complications are far less common and less severe in people who have well-managed blood sugar levels.[76][77] The goal of treatment is an HbA1C level of 6.5%, but should not be lower than that, and may be set higher.[78] Attention is also paid to other health problems that may accelerate the negative effects of diabetes. These include smoking, elevated cholesterol levels, obesity, high blood pressure, and lack of regular exercise.[78] Specialized footwear is widely used to reduce the risk of ulceration, or re-ulceration, in at-risk diabetic feet. Evidence for the efficacy of this remains equivocal, however.[79]
No major organization recommends universal screening for diabetes as there is no evidence that such a program improve outcomes.[54][55] Screening is recommended by the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) in adults without symptoms whose blood pressure is greater than 135/80 mmHg.[56] For those whose blood pressure is less, the evidence is insufficient to recommend for or against screening.[56] There is no evidence that it changes the risk of death in this group of people.[55] They also recommend screening among those who are overweight and between the ages of 40 and 70.[57]
Type 2 diabetes mellitus (non–insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus [NIDDM]) is a heterogeneous disorder. Most patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus have insulin resistance, and their beta cells lack the ability to overcome this resistance. [6] Although this form of diabetes was previously uncommon in children, in some countries, 20% or more of new patients with diabetes in childhood and adolescence have type 2 diabetes mellitus, a change associated with increased rates of obesity. Other patients may have inherited disorders of insulin release, leading to maturity onset diabetes of the young (MODY) or congenital diabetes. [7, 8, 9] This topic addresses only type 1 diabetes mellitus. (See Etiology and Epidemiology.)
Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), is common in people with type 1 and type 2 DM. Most cases are mild and are not considered medical emergencies. Effects can range from feelings of unease, sweating, trembling, and increased appetite in mild cases to more serious effects such as confusion, changes in behavior such as aggressiveness, seizures, unconsciousness, and (rarely) permanent brain damage or death in severe cases.[24][25] Moderately low blood sugar may easily be mistaken for drunkenness;[26] rapid breathing and sweating, cold, pale skin are characteristic of low blood sugar but not definitive.[27] Mild to moderate cases are self-treated by eating or drinking something high in sugar. Severe cases can lead to unconsciousness and must be treated with intravenous glucose or injections with glucagon.[28]
Insulin is only recommended for individuals for type 2 diabetics when they have not been able to get blood sugars low enough to prevent complications through other means. To avoid insulin, those with this health condition should work very hard to follow a healthy eating plan that includes a lot of vegetables and lean proteins, exercise every day, and keep stress in perspective. They also should take their oral drugs regularly. It can be difficult to follow these recommendations and the help of your doctor, nutritionist, diabetes educator, health coach, or integrative medicine practitioner may be helpful. If you who want to avoid taking medicine, work with health professionals who are knowledgeable about lifestyle medicine, and can help you understand how to fit the changes into your life.
A fingerstick glucose test is most often used to monitor blood glucose. Most blood glucose monitoring devices (glucose meters) use a drop of blood obtained by pricking the tip of the finger with a small lancet. The lancet holds a tiny needle that can be jabbed into the finger or placed in a spring-loaded device that easily and quickly pierces the skin. Most people find that the pricking causes only minimal discomfort. Then, a drop of blood is placed on a reagent strip. The strip contains chemicals that undergo changes depending on the glucose level. The glucose meter reads the changes in the test strip and reports the result on a digital display. Some devices allow the blood sample to be obtained from other sites, such as the palm, forearm, upper arm, thigh, or calf. Home glucose meters are smaller than a deck of cards.
Type 2 diabetes (formerly named non-insulin-dependent) which results from the body's inability to respond properly to the action of insulin produced by the pancreas. Type 2 diabetes is much more common and accounts for around 90% of all diabetes cases worldwide. It occurs most frequently in adults, but is being noted increasingly in adolescents as well.
To understand why insulin is important, it helps to know more about how the body uses food for energy. Your body is made up of millions of cells. To make energy, these cells need food in a very simple form. When you eat or drink, much of the food is broken down into a simple sugar called "glucose." Then, glucose is transported through the bloodstream to these cells where it can be used to provide the energy the body needs for daily activities.

The body’s immune system is responsible for fighting off foreign invaders, like harmful viruses and bacteria. In people with type 1 diabetes, the immune system mistakes the body’s own healthy cells for foreign invaders. The immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. After these beta cells are destroyed, the body is unable to produce insulin.
Our bodies break down the foods we eat into glucose and other nutrients we need, which are then absorbed into the bloodstream from the gastrointestinal tract. The glucose level in the blood rises after a meal and triggers the pancreas to make the hormone insulin and release it into the bloodstream. But in people with diabetes, the body either can't make or can't respond to insulin properly.
There is currently no cure for diabetes. The condition, however, can be managed so that patients can live a relatively normal life. Treatment of diabetes focuses on two goals: keeping blood glucose within normal range and preventing the development of long-term complications. Careful monitoring of diet, exercise, and blood glucose levels are as important as the use of insulin or oral medications in preventing complications of diabetes. In 2003, the American Diabetes Association updated its Standards of Care for the management of diabetes. These standards help manage health care providers in the most recent recommendations for diagnosis and treatment of the disease.
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:
A 2018 study suggested that three types should be abandoned as too simplistic.[57] It classified diabetes into five subgroups, with what is typically described as type 1 and autoimmune late-onset diabetes categorized as one group, whereas type 2 encompasses four categories. This is hoped to improve diabetes treatment by tailoring it more specifically to the subgroups.[58]
Type 1 diabetes occurs when the immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas (the beta cells). As a result, the body is left without enough insulin to function normally (i.e. it becomes insulin deficient). This is called an autoimmune reaction, because the body attacks itself and produces antibodies to its own insulin-producing cells, thereby destroying them.
Anal itching is the irritation of the skin at the exit of the rectum, known as the anus, accompanied by the desire to scratch. Causes include everything from irritating foods we eat, to certain diseases, and infections. Treatment options include medicine including, local anesthetics, for example, lidocaine (Xylocaine), pramoxine (Fleet Pain-Relief), and benzocaine (Lanacane Maximum Strength), vasoconstrictors, for example, phenylephrine 0.25% (Medicone Suppository, Preparation H, Rectocaine), protectants, for example, glycerin, kaolin, lanolin, mineral oil (Balneol), astringents, for example, witch hazel and calamine, antiseptics, for example, boric acid and phenol, aeratolytics, for example, resorcinol, analgesics, for example, camphor and juniper tar, and corticosteroids.
Most cases of diabetes involve many genes, with each being a small contributor to an increased probability of becoming a type 2 diabetic.[10] If one identical twin has diabetes, the chance of the other developing diabetes within his lifetime is greater than 90%, while the rate for nonidentical siblings is 25–50%.[13] As of 2011, more than 36 genes had been found that contribute to the risk of type 2 diabetes.[37] All of these genes together still only account for 10% of the total heritable component of the disease.[37] The TCF7L2 allele, for example, increases the risk of developing diabetes by 1.5 times and is the greatest risk of the common genetic variants.[13] Most of the genes linked to diabetes are involved in beta cell functions.[13]
The brain depends on glucose as a fuel. As glucose levels drop below 65 mg/dL (3.2 mmol/L) counterregulatory hormones (eg, glucagon, cortisol, epinephrine) are released, and symptoms of hypoglycemia develop. These symptoms include sweatiness, shaking, confusion, behavioral changes, and, eventually, coma when blood glucose levels fall below 30-40 mg/dL.
Diabetes mellitus is a group of metabolic diseases characterized by high blood sugar (glucose) levels that result from defects in insulin secretion, or its action, or both. Diabetes mellitus, commonly referred to as diabetes (as it will be in this article) was first identified as a disease associated with "sweet urine," and excessive muscle loss in the ancient world. Elevated levels of blood glucose (hyperglycemia) lead to spillage of glucose into the urine, hence the term sweet urine.

The levels of glucose in the blood vary normally throughout the day. They rise after a meal and return to pre-meal levels within about 2 hours after eating. Once the levels of glucose in the blood return to premeal levels, insulin production decreases. The variation in blood glucose levels is usually within a narrow range, about 70 to 110 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) of blood in healthy people. If people eat a large amount of carbohydrates, the levels may increase more. People older than 65 years tend to have slightly higher levels, especially after eating.


Kidney disease: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 33 percent of people with diabetes have chronic kidney disease. Diabetes can also damage blood vessels in the kidneys, impairing function. The kidneys play a vital role in balancing fluid levels and removing waste from the body. Kidney health is therefore vital for preserving overall health.
The Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT) was a clinical study conducted by the United States National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1993. Test subjects all had diabetes mellitus type 1 and were randomized to a tight glycemic arm and a control arm with the standard of care at the time; people were followed for an average of seven years, and people in the treatment had dramatically lower rates of diabetic complications. It was as a landmark study at the time, and significantly changed the management of all forms of diabetes.[86][130][131]
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.
Onset of type 2 diabetes can be delayed or prevented through proper nutrition and regular exercise.[60][61] Intensive lifestyle measures may reduce the risk by over half.[24][62] The benefit of exercise occurs regardless of the person's initial weight or subsequent weight loss.[63] High levels of physical activity reduce the risk of diabetes by about 28%.[64] Evidence for the benefit of dietary changes alone, however, is limited,[65] with some evidence for a diet high in green leafy vegetables[66] and some for limiting the intake of sugary drinks.[32] In those with impaired glucose tolerance, diet and exercise either alone or in combination with metformin or acarbose may decrease the risk of developing diabetes.[24][67] Lifestyle interventions are more effective than metformin.[24] A 2017 review found that, long term, lifestyle changes decreased the risk by 28%, while medication does not reduce risk after withdrawal.[68] While low vitamin D levels are associated with an increased risk of diabetes, correcting the levels by supplementing vitamin D3 does not improve that risk.[69]
Type 2 diabetes used to be called adult-onset diabetes or non-insulin dependent diabetes because it was diagnosed mainly in adults who did not require insulin to manage their condition. However, because more children are starting to be diagnosed with T2D, and insulin is used more frequently to help manage type 2 diabetes, referring to the condition as “adult-onset” or “non-insulin dependent” is no longer accurate.
Can you “exercise your way” out of this problem? Sometimes you can; however, the key is exercising properly. For younger patients, it is best to exercise briefly and intensely. Within the first 20 minutes of intense exercise, your body burns its sugar stores, which are hanging out in liver and muscle again. After that, you start burning fat. Although this sounds good; and to some extent it is, if you spend hours running or exercising excessively, you train your body to burn fat efficiently, which subsequently lead to also training your body to store fat efficiently.
What his theory boils down to is that type 2 diabetes is caused not by extra fat alone, but by fat stored in the wrong places. "Virtually all the individuals [with insulin resistance] have fat accumulation in liver and muscle," Shulman says, where it may disrupt normal biological processes, leading to insulin resistance. "If you can understand this, you can ideally come up with new ways to prevent insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes."
Type 1 diabetes has some connection to your family genes, but that doesn't mean you'll get it if one of your parents had it. "Since not all identical twins get diabetes, we do think that exposure to an additional environmental factor may trigger an immune response that ultimately causes destruction of the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas," says Dr. Sarah R. Rettinger, an endocrinologist with Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California.
Diet, exercise, and education are the cornerstones of treatment of diabetes and often the first recommendations for people with mild diabetes. Weight loss is important for people who are overweight. People who continue to have elevated blood glucose levels despite lifestyle changes, or have very high blood glucose levels and people with type 1 diabetes (no matter their blood glucose levels) also require drugs.
Nerve damage (neuropathy). Excess sugar can injure the walls of the tiny blood vessels (capillaries) that nourish your nerves, especially in the legs. This can cause tingling, numbness, burning or pain that usually begins at the tips of the toes or fingers and gradually spreads upward. Poorly controlled blood sugar can eventually cause you to lose all sense of feeling in the affected limbs. Damage to the nerves that control digestion can cause problems with nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation. For men, erectile dysfunction may be an issue.
Abnormal cholesterol and triglyceride levels. If you have low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good," cholesterol, your risk of type 2 diabetes is higher. Triglycerides are another type of fat carried in the blood. People with high levels of triglycerides have an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. Your doctor can let you know what your cholesterol and triglyceride levels are.
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