Diabetes is a disease that occurs when your blood glucose, also called blood sugar, is too high. Blood glucose is your main source of energy and comes from the food you eat. Insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas, helps glucose from food get into your cells to be used for energy. Sometimes your body doesn’t make enough or any insulin or doesn’t use insulin well. Glucose then stays in your blood and doesn’t reach your cells.
Sometimes people call it “a touch of sugar” or “borderline diabetes.” These terms suggest that someone doesn’t really have it or has a less serious case, but every case of diabetes is serious.
What are the different types?
The most common types are type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes.
If you have type 1 diabetes, your body does not make insulin. Your immune system attacks and destroys the cells in your pancreas that make insulin. Type 1 is usually diagnosed in children and young adults, although it can appear at any age. People with type 1 need to take insulin every day to stay alive.
If you have type 2 diabetes, your body does not make or use insulin well. You can develop type 2 at any age, even during childhood. However, this type occurs most often in middle-aged and older people. Type 2 is the most common type.
Gestational diabetes develops in some women when they are pregnant. Most of the time, this type of goes away after the baby is born. However, if you’ve had gestational diabetes, you have a greater chance of developing type 2 later in life. Sometimes diagnosed during pregnancy is actually type 2.
How common is diabetes?
As of 2015, 30.3 million people in the United States, or 9.4 percent of the population, had diabetes. More than 1 in 4 of them didn’t know they had the disease. It affects 1 in 4 people over the age of 65. About 90-95 percent of cases in adults are type 2.
Who is more likely to develop type 2 diabetes?
You are more likely to develop type 2 if you are age 45 or older, have a family history of diabetes, or are overweight. Physical inactivity, race, and certain health problems such as high blood pressure also affect your chance of developing type 2. You are also more likely to develop type 2 diabetes if you have prediabetes or had gestational diabetes when you were pregnant. Learn more about risk factors for type 2.
What health problems can people develop?
Over time, high blood glucose leads to problems such as
- heart disease
- kidney disease
- eye problems
- dental disease
- nerve damage
- foot problems
You can take steps to lower your chances of developing these diabetes-related health problems.
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