What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a condition in which the level of glucose (a sugar) in the blood is too high. This is caused by a problem with the hormone “insulin” and its role in controlling blood glucose levels. When you eat, your body turns food into sugars, or glucose. At that point, your pancreas is supposed to release insulin.

Insulin serves as a “key” to open your cells, to allow the glucose to enter -- and allow you to use the glucose for energy But with diabetes, this system does not work.

Several major things can go wrong – causing the onset of diabetes. Type 1 and type 2 diabetes are the most common forms of the disease, but there are also other kinds, such as gestational diabetes, which occurs during pregnancy, as well as other forms.

Type of Diabetes

Type 2 Diabetes

used to be called adult-onset diabetes, but with the epidemic of obese and overweight kids, more teenagers are now developing type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes was also called non-insulin-dependent diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is often a milder form of diabetes than type 1. Nevertheless, type 2 diabetes can still cause major health complications, particularly in the smallest blood vessels in the body that nourish the kidneys, nerves, and eyes. Type 2 diabetes also increases your risk of heart disease and stroke.

With Type 2 diabetes, the pancreas usually produces some insulin. But either the amount produced is not enough for the body's needs, or the body's cells are resistant to it. Insulin resistance, or lack of sensitivity to insulin, happens primarily in fat, liver, and muscle cells.

People who are obese -- more than 20% over their ideal body weight for their height -- are at particularly high risk of developing type 2 diabetes and its related medical problems. Obese people have insulin resistance. With insulin resistance, the pancreas has to work overly hard to produce more insulin. But even then, there is not enough insulin to keep sugars normal.

There is no cure for diabetes. Type 2 diabetes can, however, be controlled with weight management, nutrition, and exercise. Unfortunately, type 2 diabetes tends to progress, and diabetes medications are often needed.

An A1C test is a blood test that estimates average glucose levels in your blood over the previous three months. Periodic A1C testing may be advised to see how well diet, exercise, and medications are working to control blood sugar and prevent organ damage. The A1C test is typically done a few times a year.