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Type 2 diabetes primarily occurs as a result of obesity and lack of exercise.[1] Some people are more genetically at risk than others.[6] Type 2 diabetes makes up about 90% of cases of diabetes, with the other 10% due primarily to diabetes mellitus type 1 and gestational diabetes.[1] In diabetes mellitus type 1 there is a lower total level of insulin to control blood glucose, due to an autoimmune induced loss of insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas.[12][13] Diagnosis of diabetes is by blood tests such as fasting plasma glucose, oral glucose tolerance test, or glycated hemoglobin (A1C).[3]
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.
Diabetes mellitus (diabetes) is a common chronic disease of abnormal carbohydrate, fat, and protein metabolism that affects an estimated 20 million people in the United States, of whom about one third are undiagnosed. There are two major forms recognized, type-1 and type-2. Both are characterized by inappropriately high blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia). In type-1 diabetes the patient can not produce the hormone insulin, while in type-2 diabetes the patient produces insulin, but it is not used properly. An estimated 90% of diabetic patients suffer from type-2 disease. The causes of diabetes are multiple and both genetic and environmental factors contribute to its development. The genetic predisposition for type-2 diabetes is very strong and numerous environmental factors such as diet, lack of exercise, and being overweight are known to also increase one’s risk for diabetes. Diabetes is a dangerous disease which affects the entire body and diabetic patients are at increased risk for heart disease, hypertension, stroke, kidney failure, blindness, neuropathy, and infection when compared to nondiabetic patients. Diabetic patients also have impaired healing when compared to healthy individuals. This is in part due to the dysfunction of certain white blood cells that fight infection.

Jump up ^ Boussageon, R; Supper, I; Bejan-Angoulvant, T; Kellou, N; Cucherat, M; Boissel, JP; Kassai, B; Moreau, A; Gueyffier, F; Cornu, C (2012). Groop, Leif, ed. "Reappraisal of metformin efficacy in the treatment of type 2 diabetes: a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials". PLOS Medicine. 9 (4): e1001204. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001204. PMC 3323508. PMID 22509138.


Persons with diabetes are prone to infection, delayed healing, and vascular disease. The ease with which poorly controlled diabetic persons develop an infection is thought to be due in part to decreased chemotaxis of leukocytes, abnormal phagocyte function, and diminished blood supply because of atherosclerotic changes in the blood vessels. An impaired blood supply means a deficit in the protective defensive cells transported in the blood. Excessive glucose allows organisms to grow out of control.
The most common complication of treating high blood glucose levels is low blood glucose levels (hypoglycemia). The risk is greatest for older people who are frail, who are sick enough to require frequent hospital admissions, or who are taking several drugs. Of all available drugs to treat diabetes, long-acting sulfonylurea drugs are most likely to cause low blood glucose levels in older people. When they take these drugs, they are also more likely to have serious symptoms, such as fainting and falling, and to have difficulty thinking or using parts of the body due to low blood glucose levels.
Janis McWilliams, RN, MSN, CDE, BC-ADM, responds: Yes, in type 1 diabetes in particular, the onset of symptoms like frequent urination and extreme thirst can be very sudden. In type 2 diabetes, the symptoms tend to come about more gradually, and sometimes there are no signs at all. People who have symptoms should contact their health care provider immediately for an accurate diagnosis. Keep in mind that these symptoms could signal other problems, too.
The term "diabetes" or "to pass through" was first used in 230 BCE by the Greek Apollonius of Memphis.[108] The disease was considered rare during the time of the Roman empire, with Galen commenting he had only seen two cases during his career.[108] This is possibly due to the diet and lifestyle of the ancients, or because the clinical symptoms were observed during the advanced stage of the disease. Galen named the disease "diarrhea of the urine" (diarrhea urinosa).[110]

Hypoglycemic reactions are promptly treated by giving carbohydrates (orange juice, hard candy, honey, or any sugary food); if necessary, subcutaneous or intramuscular glucagon or intravenous dextrose (if the patient is not conscious) is administered. Hyperglycemic crises are treated initially with prescribed intravenous fluids and insulin and later with potassium replacement based on laboratory values.


Type 1 diabetes is always treated with insulin, a life-saving treatment. Patients will need to take insulin several times a day for the rest of their lives. They will usually learn how to self-administer this. Insulin is usually given through injections under the skin, normally two to four times a day. An increasing number of patients with type 1 diabetes are being treated with ‘insulin pumps’, which provide a continuous supply of insulin. 
It is especially important that persons with diabetes who are taking insulin not skip meals; they must also be sure to eat the prescribed amounts at the prescribed times during the day. Since the insulin-dependent diabetic needs to match food consumption to the available insulin, it is advantageous to increase the number of daily feedings by adding snacks between meals and at bedtime.
It is recommended that all people with type 2 diabetes get regular eye examination.[13] There is weak evidence suggesting that treating gum disease by scaling and root planing may result in a small short-term improvement in blood sugar levels for people with diabetes.[79] There is no evidence to suggest that this improvement in blood sugar levels is maintained longer than 4 months.[79] There is also not enough evidence to determine if medications to treat gum disease are effective at lowering blood sugar levels.[79]
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.
Clear evidence suggests a genetic component in type 1 diabetes mellitus. Monozygotic twins have a 60% lifetime concordance for developing type 1 diabetes mellitus, although only 30% do so within 10 years after the first twin is diagnosed. In contrast, dizygotic twins have only an 8% risk of concordance, which is similar to the risk among other siblings.
Insulin works like a key that opens the doors to cells and lets the glucose in. Without insulin, glucose can't get into the cells (the doors are "locked" and there is no key) and so it stays in the bloodstream. As a result, the level of sugar in the blood remains higher than normal. High blood sugar levels are a problem because they can cause a number of health problems.
Type 1 Diabetes: About 5 to 10 percent of those with diabetes have type 1 diabetes. It's an autoimmune disease, meaning the body's own immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Patients with type 1 diabetes have very little or no insulin, and must take insulin everyday. Although the condition can appear at any age, typically it's diagnosed in children and young adults, which is why it was previously called juvenile diabetes.
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]

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.
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 good news is that prevention plays an important role in warding off these complications. By maintaining tight control of your blood glucose—and getting it as close to normal as possible—you’ll help your body function in the way that it would if you did not have diabetes. Tight control helps you decrease the chances that your body will experience complications from elevated glucose levels.


Monitoring your caloric intake may be helpful if you’re overweight, but everyone with type 2 diabetes should track how many carbs they’re taking in. That can be tricky because carbs are in many of the common foods you may already eat, but there are both good and bad sources of carbs. Fruits and vegetables, for example, are good sources, while pretzels and cookies are bad sources. (29)

There is no single gene that “causes” type 1 diabetes. Instead, there are a large number of inherited factors that may increase an individual’s likelihood of developing diabetes. This is known as multifactorial inheritance. The genes implicated in the development of type 1 diabetes mellitus control the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) system. This system is involved in the complex process of identifying cells which are a normal part of the body, and distinguishing them from foreign cells, such as those of bacteria or viruses. In an autoimmune disease such as diabetes mellitus, this system makes a mistake in identifying the normal ‘self’ cells as ‘foreign’, and attacks the body.  

Prevention and treatment involve maintaining a healthy diet, regular physical exercise, a normal body weight, and avoiding use of tobacco.[2] Control of blood pressure and maintaining proper foot care are important for people with the disease.[2] Type 1 DM must be managed with insulin injections.[2] Type 2 DM may be treated with medications with or without insulin.[9] Insulin and some oral medications can cause low blood sugar.[13] Weight loss surgery in those with obesity is sometimes an effective measure in those with type 2 DM.[14] Gestational diabetes usually resolves after the birth of the baby.[15]
Every cell in the human body needs energy in order to function. The body's primary energy source is glucose, a simple sugar resulting from the digestion of foods containing carbohydrates (sugars and starches). Glucose from the digested food circulates in the blood as a ready energy source for any cells that need it. Insulin is a hormone or chemical produced by cells in the pancreas, an organ located behind the stomach. Insulin bonds to a receptor site on the outside of cell and acts like a key to open a doorway into the cell through which glucose can enter. Some of the glucose can be converted to concentrated energy sources like glycogen or fatty acids and saved for later use. When there is not enough insulin produced or when the doorway no longer recognizes the insulin key, glucose stays in the blood rather entering the cells.
They may need to take medications in order to keep glucose levels within a healthy range. Medications for type 2 diabetes are usually taken by mouth in the form of tablets and should always be taken around meal times and as prescribed by the doctor. However, if blood glucose is not controlled by oral medications, a doctor may recommend insulin injections.
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."
Long-term complications arise from the damaging effects of prolonged hyperglycemia and other metabolic consequences of insulin deficiency on various tissues. Although long-term complications are rare in childhood, maintaining good control of diabetes is important to prevent complications from developing in later life. [39] The likelihood of developing complications appears to depend on the interaction of factors such as metabolic control, genetic susceptibility, lifestyle (eg, smoking, diet, exercise), pubertal status, and gender. [40, 41] Long-term complications include the following:
Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, can be caused by too much insulin, too little food (or eating too late to coincide with the action of the insulin), alcohol consumption, or increased exercise. A patient with symptoms of hypoglycemia may be hungry, cranky, confused, and tired. The patient may become sweaty and shaky. Left untreated, the patient can lose consciousness or have a seizure. This condition is sometimes called an insulin reaction and should be treated by giving the patient something sweet to eat or drink like a candy, sugar cubes, juice, or another high sugar snack.
If you are at increased risk of diabetes, have symptoms of diabetes, or have pre-diabetes (a major warning sign for diabetes), your doctor will check to see if you have diabetes. Your doctor may also check to see if you have diabetes if you are over the age of 45, have a family history of the disease, are overweight, or if you are at increased risk for another reason. The tests used to check for diabetes are the same tests used to check for pre-diabetes.
And go easy on yourself: Sometimes you can be doing everything perfectly and your blood sugars start to creep up. Because diabetes is a progressive disease, your body slowly stops making insulin over time. If you've had diabetes for a very long time, try not to be discouraged if your doctor has to increase your medication or discusses insulin with you. Continue to do what you can to improve your health.
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.
The good news is that prevention plays an important role in warding off these complications. By maintaining tight control of your blood glucose—and getting it as close to normal as possible—you’ll help your body function in the way that it would if you did not have diabetes. Tight control helps you decrease the chances that your body will experience complications from elevated glucose levels.
Diabetes can be hard enough as it is, so do what you can to make life with it less complicated. For example, you don't have to be a master chef to put together a healthy meal. You can use ingredients that are right in your home. If you find your medication regimen to be too complex or too expensive, request that your physician change it. If you continue to forget to take your medicines, find simple ways to help you take them, like setting a reminder on your cell phone.
Sources of processed or added sugar, including condiments, honey, and especially sugary drinks, are just a few of the potential culprits for weight gain, Grieger says, and it’s when they’re consumed in excess that they can contribute to diabetes risk. “The largest source of added sugar comes from sweetened beverages. They run the gamut of soda, sweetened tea, juices with added sugar, sports drinks — it’s a plethora. Just about everything we drink has added sugar in it, except for water,” she explains.

Persons with diabetes who take insulin must be careful about indulging in unplanned exercise. Strenuous physical activity can rapidly lower their blood sugar and precipitate a hypoglycemic reaction. For a person whose blood glucose level is over 250 mg/dl, the advice would be not to exercise at all. At this range, the levels of insulin are too low and the body would have difficulty transporting glucose into exercising muscles. The result of exercise would be a rise in blood glucose levels.

Type 2 DM is primarily due to lifestyle factors and genetics.[45] A number of lifestyle factors are known to be important to the development of type 2 DM, including obesity (defined by a body mass index of greater than 30), lack of physical activity, poor diet, stress, and urbanization.[16] Excess body fat is associated with 30% of cases in those of Chinese and Japanese descent, 60–80% of cases in those of European and African descent, and 100% of Pima Indians and Pacific Islanders.[11] Even those who are not obese often have a high waist–hip ratio.[11]


Most cases (95%) of type 1 diabetes mellitus are the result of environmental factors interacting with a genetically susceptible person. This interaction leads to the development of autoimmune disease directed at the insulin-producing cells of the pancreatic islets of Langerhans. These cells are progressively destroyed, with insulin deficiency usually developing after the destruction of 90% of islet cells.
Diabetes mellitus (DM) is a strong predictor of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality and is associated with both micro- and macrovascular complications.1 Cardiovascular disease (CVD) causes up to 70% of all deaths in people with DM. The epidemic of DM will thus be followed by a burden of diabetes-related vascular diseases. The number of DM patients increases with aging of the population, in part because of the increasing prevalence of obesity and sedentary lifestyle. Although the mortality from coronary artery disease (CAD) in patients without DM has declined since the 1990s, the mortality in men with type 2 diabetes (T2DM) has not changed significantly.2 Moreover, DM is an independent risk factor for heart failure. Heart failure is closely related to diabetic cardiomyopathy: changes in the structure and function of the myocardium are not directly linked to CAD or hypertension. Diabetic cardiomyopathy is clinically characterized by an initial increase in left ventricular stiffness and subclinical diastolic dysfunction, gradually compromising left ventricular systolic function with loss of contractile function and progress into overt congestive heart failure. DM accounts for a significant percentage of patients with a diagnosis of heart failure in epidemiologic studies such as the Framingham Study and the UK Prospective Diabetes Study (UKPDS).2 A 1% increase in glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) correlates to an increment of 8% in heart failure.3 The prevalence of heart failure in elderly diabetic patients is up to 30%.3
The relationship between type 2 diabetes and the main modifiable risk factors (excess weight, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and tobacco use) is similar in all regions of the world. There is growing evidence that the underlying determinants of diabetes are a reflection of the major forces driving social, economic and cultural change: globalization, urbanization, population aging, and the general health policy environment.[74]

Insulin is released into the blood by beta cells (β-cells), found in the islets of Langerhans in the pancreas, in response to rising levels of blood glucose, typically after eating. Insulin is used by about two-thirds of the body's cells to absorb glucose from the blood for use as fuel, for conversion to other needed molecules, or for storage. Lower glucose levels result in decreased insulin release from the beta cells and in the breakdown of glycogen to glucose. This process is mainly controlled by the hormone glucagon, which acts in the opposite manner to insulin.[61]
The ketogenic, or keto, diet calls for dramatically increasing your fat intake and consuming a moderate amount of protein and a very low amount of carbs, with the aim of kicking your body into a natural metabolic state called ketosis, in which it relies on burning fat rather than carbs for energy. Ketosis is different from diabetic ketoacidosis, a health emergency that occurs when insulin levels are low in conjunction with high levels of ketones. (37) Ketones are by-products of metabolism that are released in the blood when carb intake is low.

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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