Diabetes overview

Diabetes is a disease affecting the body's ability to dispose of sugar resulting in high blood sugar levels.

The body's organs depend on sugar supplied by the blood to produce the energy needed to maintain their function. Insulin is needed to shuttle sugar into the body's cells, so it can be used or stored. Diabetes happens when the body cannot send needed energy into the body's cells, resulting in starvation. When sugar can't be shuttled into the cells, it stays in the blood and accumulates. Eventually it begins to spill into the urine, causing excessive urination and thirst. If it is not caught on time, the person can become severely starved, very weak and dehydrated.

Diabetes is a chronic disease, meaning that it can't be cured. However, with proper treatment people with diabetes can live long, fruitful and successful lives. It is however important to follow the treatment because uncontrolled diabetes can cause serious complications and shorten a person's life.

With good management of their condition, people with diabetes are able to become whatever they aspire to be -- professional athletes, Olympic champions, loving parents, college graduates and accomplished professionals.

Symptoms of diabetes
The classical symptoms of diabetes are:

  • Excessive thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Rapid weight loss

Other common symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Yeast infections
  • Blurry vision
  • Muscle cramps
  • Deep, rapid breathing or shortness of breath
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Impaired mental status (lethargy, confusion, sleepiness, coma)

Other types of diabetes
The most common type of diabetes is called type 2 diabetes but it happens mostly in adults. The most common type of diabetes diagnosed in children is called type 1 diabetes.

Less common causes of diabetes include diabetes secondary to medications, monogenic diabetes (MODY and neonatal diabetes), gestational diabetes and Cystic Fibrosis-related diabetes.

Listed below, you will find some additional information regarding the different types of diabetes, for which we have provided a brief overview.

How is diabetes diagnosed?
The diagnosis of diabetes can be made by checking for sugar in the urine, checking a fasting or a random blood sugar or checking a hemoglobin A1c.

The diagnosis of diabetes is made when the person has symptoms and either a fasting blood sugar of 126 mg/dL or higher, or a random blood sugar of 200 mg/dL or higher.

A hemoglobin A1c of 6.5% or higher can also be diagnostic of diabetes, if confirmed on a second check in a NGSP certified lab.