Diabetes (medically known as diabetes mellitus) is a disorder of the metabolism where the body has trouble using glucose, or blood sugar, for energy. When we eat, our body breaks down foods known as carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables, breads, pastas, dairy, and sweets) into glucose, which is sent to our cells through the bloodstream.
When our body’s systems detect glucose in the blood (particularly during meal or snack times), an organ called the pancreas releases an appropriate amount of a hormone called insulin. Insulin makes it possible for our cells to absorb glucose and provide the energy our body and brain need to function.
Type 1 diabetes (previously called juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes) is a disorder of the body’s immune system that results from the pancreas not producing any insulin. Type 1 diabetes represents only 5%–10% of all diagnosed cases. It is currently incurable, but it is treatable with a rigid therapy of artificial insulin.
Type 2 diabetes (previously called adult onset diabetes) results when the body doesn’t respond appropriately to insulin, a condition called “insulin resistance.” This more common (90%–95% of all cases) variety of diabetes often runs in families or racial groups, but can also be caused by poor diet and an inactive lifestyle.
If caught in its early stages, this type of diabetes is often treatable with modifications in diet and an exercise program. If left untreated, a person with type 2 diabetes could eventually develop extreme insulin resistance and require the addition of artificial insulin. Insulin resistance is a condition where your body requires unusually high amounts of insulin to maintain normal glucose levels, and your pancreas just can't keep up.
Gestational diabetes affects about 4% of all pregnant women in the late stages of pregnancy. Pregnant women who have never had diabetes before, but who have high blood glucose levels are said to have gestational diabetes. The condition usually goes away after pregnancy, but if left untreated can harm the baby.
Read about treating gestational diabetes and what medical complications are involved.
Find out about the symptoms of diabetes.
Find out about managing diabetes.