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The genes identified so far in people with type 2 include many that affect the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas, says Craig Hanis, PhD, a professor at the Human Genetics Center at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston. And yet he emphasizes that why people get type 2 isn't at all clear yet: "What it tells us is that diabetes is a complicated disease."
Glucose is vital to your health because it's an important source of energy for the cells that make up your muscles and tissues. It's also your brain's main source of fuel. If you have diabetes, no matter what type, it means you have too much glucose in your blood, although the causes may differ. Too much glucose can lead to serious health problems.
The development of type 2 diabetes is caused by a combination of lifestyle and genetic factors.[24][26] While some of these factors are under personal control, such as diet and obesity, other factors are not, such as increasing age, female gender, and genetics.[10] A lack of sleep has been linked to type 2 diabetes.[27] This is believed to act through its effect on metabolism.[27] The nutritional status of a mother during fetal development may also play a role, with one proposed mechanism being that of DNA methylation.[28] The intestinal bacteria Prevotella copri and Bacteroides vulgatus have been connected with type 2 diabetes.[29]
Fasting plasma glucose level: If your blood glucose level is 7.0 mmol/L or higher after having not eaten anything for at least 8 hours – called fasting – your doctor may diagnose diabetes. If your blood glucose level is between 6.1 to 6.9 mmol/L, your doctor may diagnose impaired fasting glucose or prediabetes (a condition that may later develop into diabetes).
According to the Mayo Clinic, your risk of developing type 2 diabetes increases as you age. Your risk goes up after age 45 in particular. However, the incidence of type 2 diabetes is increasing dramatically among children, adolescents, and younger adults. Likely factors include reduced exercise, decreased muscle mass, and weight gain as you age. Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed by the age of 30.
Don’t be alarmed: This is not diabetic retinopathy, where the blood vessels in the back of the eye are getting destroyed, says Dr. Cypess. In the early stages of diabetes, the eye lens is not focusing well because glucose builds up in the eye, which temporarily changes its shape. “You’re not going blind from diabetes,” Dr. Cypess says he assures patients. “In about six to eight weeks after your blood sugars are stabilized, you’re not going to feel it anymore; the eye will adjust.” Here are more surprising facts you never knew about diabetes.
Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). If your blood sugar level drops below your target range, it's known as low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). Your blood sugar level can drop for many reasons, including skipping a meal, inadvertently taking more medication than usual or getting more physical activity than normal. Low blood sugar is most likely if you take glucose-lowering medications that promote the secretion of insulin or if you're taking insulin.
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 the sunshine, molecules in the skin are converted to vitamin D. But people stay indoors more these days, which could lead to vitamin D deficiency. Research shows that if mice are deprived of vitamin D, they are more likely to become diabetic. In people, observational studies have also found a correlation between D deficiency and type 1. "If you don't have enough D, then [your immune system] doesn't function like it should," says Chantal Mathieu, MD, PhD, a professor of experimental medicine and endocrinology at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium. "Vitamin D is not the cause of type 1 diabetes. [But] if you already have a risk, you don't want to have vitamin D deficiency on board because that's going to be one of the little pushes that pushes you in the wrong direction."
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).
How does type 2 diabetes progress over time? Type 2 diabetes is a progressive disease, meaning that the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar gets worse over time, despite careful management. Over time, the body’s cells become increasingly less responsive to insulin (increased insulin resistance) and beta cells in the pancreas produce less and less insulin (called beta-cell burnout). In fact, when people are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, they usually have already lost up to 50% or more of their beta cell function. As type 2 diabetes progresses, people typically need to add one or more different types of medications. The good news is that there are many more choices available for treatments, and a number of these medications don’t cause as much hypoglycemia, hunger and/or weight gain (e.g., metformin, pioglitazone, DPP-4 inhibitors, GLP-1 agonists, SGLT-2 inhibitors, and better insulin). Diligent management early on can help preserve remaining beta cell function and sometimes slow progression of the disease, although the need to use more and different types of medications does not mean that you have failed.
If you have type 2 diabetes and your body mass index (BMI) is greater than 35, you may be a candidate for weight-loss surgery (bariatric surgery). Blood sugar levels return to normal in 55 to 95 percent of people with diabetes, depending on the procedure performed. Surgeries that bypass a portion of the small intestine have more of an effect on blood sugar levels than do other weight-loss surgeries.
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.

Over time, a prolonged exposure to high blood sugar can damage the nerves throughout the body — a condition called diabetic neuropathy. Some people may not have any symptoms of the damage, while others may notice numbness, tingling, or pain in the extremities. “At the beginning, [diabetic neuropathy] usually starts in the feet and then it progresses upward,” says Dr. Ovalle. Although most common in people who have had type 2 diabetes for 25 years or more, it can occur in people who have prediabetes as well. In some studies, almost 50 percent of unexplained peripheral neuropathy [in the extremities], whether painful or otherwise, turns out to be caused by prediabetes or diabetes, says Dr. Einhorn.
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