Diabetes mellitus is a condition in which the pancreas no longer produces enough insulin or cells stop responding to the insulin that is produced, so that glucose in the blood cannot be absorbed into the cells of the body. Symptoms include frequent urination, lethargy, excessive thirst, and hunger. The treatment includes changes in diet, oral medications, and in some cases, daily injections of insulin.
Most people with diabetes should keep a record of their blood glucose levels and report them to their doctor or nurse for advice in adjusting the dose of insulin or the oral antihyperglycemic drug. Many people can learn to adjust the insulin dose on their own as necessary. Some people who have mild or early type 2 diabetes that is well-controlled with one or two drugs may be able to monitor their fingerstick glucose levels relatively infrequently.
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.  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.)
Diabetes insipidus is characterized by excessive urination and thirst, as well as a general feeling of weakness. While these can also be symptoms of diabetes mellitus, if you have diabetes insipidus your blood sugar levels will be normal and no sugar present in your urine. Diabetes insipidus is a problem of fluid balance caused by a problem with the kidneys, where they can't stop the excretion of water. Polyuria (excessive urine) and polydipsia (excessive thirst) occur in diabetes mellitus as a reaction to high blood sugar.
Family or personal history. Your risk increases if you have prediabetes — a precursor to type 2 diabetes — or if a close family member, such as a parent or sibling, has type 2 diabetes. You're also at greater risk if you had gestational diabetes during a previous pregnancy, if you delivered a very large baby or if you had an unexplained stillbirth.
Normally, blood glucose levels are tightly controlled by insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas. Insulin lowers the blood glucose level. When the blood glucose elevates (for example, after eating food), insulin is released from the pancreas to normalize the glucose level by promoting the uptake of glucose into body cells. In patients with diabetes, the absence of insufficient production of or lack of response to insulin causes hyperglycemia. Diabetes is a chronic medical condition, meaning that although it can be controlled, it lasts a lifetime.
People with type 1 diabetes and certain people with type 2 diabetes may use carbohydrate counting or the carbohydrate exchange system to match their insulin dose to the carbohydrate content of their meal. "Counting" the amount of carbohydrate in a meal is used to calculate the amount of insulin the person takes before eating. However, the carbohydrate-to-insulin ratio (the amount of insulin taken for each gram of carbohydrate in the meal) varies for each person, and people with diabetes need to work closely with a dietician who has experience in working with people with diabetes to master the technique. Some experts have advised use of the glycemic index (a measure of the impact of an ingested carbohydrate-containing food on the blood glucose level) to delineate between rapid and slowly metabolized carbohydrates, although there is little evidence to support this approach.
What is type 2 diabetes and prediabetes? Behind type 2 diabetes is a disease where the body’s cells have trouble responding to insulin – this is called insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone needed to store the energy found in food into the body’s cells. In prediabetes, insulin resistance starts growing and the beta cells in the pancreas that release insulin will try to make even more insulin to make up for the body’s insensitivity. This can go on for a long time without any symptoms. Over time, though, the beta cells in the pancreas will fatigue and will no longer be able to produce enough insulin – this is called “beta burnout.” Once there is not enough insulin, blood sugars will start to rise above normal. Prediabetes causes people to have higher-than-normal blood sugars (and an increased risk for heart disease and stroke). Left unnoticed or untreated, blood sugars continue to worsen and many people progress to type 2 diabetes. After a while, so many of the beta cells have been damaged that diabetes becomes an irreversible condition.
Insulin is a hormone produced by the beta cells within the pancreas in response to the intake of food. The role of insulin is to lower blood sugar (glucose) levels by allowing cells in the muscle, liver and fat to take up sugar from the bloodstream that has been absorbed from food, and store it away as energy. In type 1 diabetes (previously called insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus), the insulin-producing cells are destroyed and the body is not able to produce insulin naturally. This means that sugar is not stored away but is constantly released from energy stores giving rise to high sugar levels in the blood. This in turn causes dehydration and thirst (because the high glucose ‘spills over’ into the urine and pulls water out of the body at the same time). To exacerbate the problem, because the body is not making insulin it ‘thinks’ that it is starving so does everything it can to release even more stores of energy into the bloodstream. So, if left untreated, patients become increasingly unwell, lose weight, and develop a condition called diabetic ketoacidosis, which is due to the excessive release of acidic energy stores and causes severe changes to how energy is used and stored in the body.
While there are competing explanations of the link between obesity and type 2 diabetes, Gerald Shulman, MD, PhD, a professor of internal medicine and physiology at Yale University, believes the key is figuring out insulin resistance. He has studied the causes of insulin resistance for 25 years and thinks he may have the answer to the weight-diabetes link.
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.
Some cases of diabetes are caused by the body's tissue receptors not responding to insulin (even when insulin levels are normal, which is what separates it from type 2 diabetes); this form is very uncommon. Genetic mutations (autosomal or mitochondrial) can lead to defects in beta cell function. Abnormal insulin action may also have been genetically determined in some cases. Any disease that causes extensive damage to the pancreas may lead to diabetes (for example, chronic pancreatitis and cystic fibrosis). Diseases associated with excessive secretion of insulin-antagonistic hormones can cause diabetes (which is typically resolved once the hormone excess is removed). Many drugs impair insulin secretion and some toxins damage pancreatic beta cells. The ICD-10 (1992) diagnostic entity, malnutrition-related diabetes mellitus (MRDM or MMDM, ICD-10 code E12), was deprecated by the World Health Organization (WHO) when the current taxonomy was introduced in 1999.
Diabetes is a disease in which your blood glucose, or blood sugar, levels are too high. Glucose comes from the foods you eat. Insulin is a hormone that helps the glucose get into your cells to give them energy. With type 1 diabetes, your body does not make insulin. With type 2 diabetes, the more common type, your body does not make or use insulin well. Without enough insulin, the glucose stays in your blood.
A metabolic disease in which carbohydrate use is reduced and that of lipid and protein enhanced; it is caused by an absolute or relative deficiency of insulin and is characterized, in more severe cases, by chronic hyperglycemia, glycosuria, water and electrolyte loss, ketoacidosis, and coma; long-term complications include neuropathy, retinopathy, nephropathy, generalized degenerative changes in large and small blood vessels, and increased susceptibility to infection.
Being too heavy gets the bulk of the blame for triggering type 2 diabetes. According to the National Institutes of Health, about 85 percent of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese. But consider that the remaining 15 percent are not. Consider, too, that roughly two-thirds of overweight people and a third of those who are obese will never develop diabetes. In other words, normal-weight and thin people also develop type 2, while heavy people won't necessarily. Clearly, there is more to the connection between lifestyle and type 2 diabetes than just body size.
It is a considerable challenge to obtain the goals of the intensively treated patients in the DCCT with the vast majority of people with diabetes given the more limited health care resources typically available in routine practice. If diabetes control can be improved without significant damage to quality of life, the economic, health, and quality of life savings associated with a reduction in complications in later life will be vast. Although some people who have had poorly controlled diabetes over many years do not develop complications, complications commonly arise after 15–20 years of diabetes and individuals in their 40s or even 30s may develop several complications in rapid succession. However, up until the early 1980s, patients had no way of monitoring their own blood glucose levels at home. Urine glucose monitoring only told them when their blood glucose had exceeded the renal threshold of approximately 10 mmol/L (i.e., was far too high), without being able to discriminate between the too high levels of 7–10 mmol/L or the hypoglycemic levels below 4 mmol/L. Clinics relied on random blood glucose testing and there were no measures of average blood glucose over a longer period. Since the 1980s there have been measures of glycosylated hemoglobin (GHb, HbA1, or HbA1c) which indicate average blood glucose over a six to eight week period and measures of glycosylated protein, fructosamine, which indicates average blood glucose over a two-week period. Blood-glucose meters for patients were first introduced in the early 1980s and the accuracy and convenience of the meters and the reagent strips they use has improved dramatically since early models. By the late 1990s blood-glucose monitoring is part of the daily routine for most people using insulin in developed countries. Blood-glucose monitoring is less often prescribed for tablet- and diet-alone-treated patients, financial reasons probably being allowed to outweigh the educational value of accurate feedback in improving control long term. The reduced risk of hypoglycemia and diabetic ketoacidosis in NIDDM patients not using insulin means that acute crises rarely arise in these patients though their risk of long-term complications is at least as great as in IDDM and might be expected to be reduced if feedback from blood-glucose monitoring were provided.
Weight fluctuations also fall under the umbrella of possible diabetes signs and symptoms. When you lose sugar through frequent urination, you also lose calories. At the same time, diabetes may keep the sugar from your food from reaching your cells — leading to constant hunger. The combined effect is potentially rapid weight loss, especially if you have type 1 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes usually begins with insulin resistance, a condition in which muscle, liver, and fat cells do not use insulin well. As a result, your body needs more insulin to help glucose enter cells. At first, the pancreas makes more insulin to keep up with the added demand. Over time, the pancreas can’t make enough insulin, and blood glucose levels rise.
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.
People with type 2 diabetes have insulin resistance, which means the body cannot use insulin properly to help glucose get into the cells. In people with type 2 diabetes, insulin doesn’t work well in muscle, fat, and other tissues, so your pancreas (the organ that makes insulin) starts to put out a lot more of it to try and compensate. "This results in high insulin levels in the body,” says Fernando Ovalle, MD, director of the multidisciplinary diabetes clinic at the University of Alabama in Birmingham. This insulin level sends signals to the brain that your body is hungry.