Medically Reviewed By: Tom Iarocci, MD
What Is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a group of diseases that result in abnormal, elevated levels of sugar, or glucose, in the blood. When blood glucose levels are above normal for an extended period of time, over years, this can affect the health of the arteries as well as the organs they deliver blood to, such as the heart, brain, kidneys, and the retina of the eye. More immediate problems can also result from high blood sugar levels.
Types Of Diabetes:
There are four basic categories of diabetes—type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, prediabetes, and gestational diabetes. All forms have at least one thing in common: for whatever reason, the body is not able to process glucose as it should.
Sometimes this occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin. This is the case in type 1 diabetes, where little of no insulin is produced. Alternatively, sometimes the body becomes resistant to the action of insulin, even thought your pancreas is making plenty of it. This can happen in type 2 diabetes. In fact, in type 2 diabetes you can have both things going on at the same time—the body is increasingly resistant to insulin and the body is increasingly unable to make enough insulin to meet the demand. Prediabetes refers to a person who is on the road to developing type 2 diabetes, but not quite there yet.
Finally, gestational diabetes is diabetes that develops during pregnancy, often around the 24th week of pregnancy. Many women develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy. This does not mean that the individual woman had diabetes before she conceived. It also does not necessarily mean that she will develop diabetes later on, after delivery, or in the near future. Gestational diabetes often goes away after the pregnancy. It is, however, important to follow the doctor's recommendations about blood glucose levels during pregnancy, for the mother’s health and the health of the child. Because women who had gestational diabetes may be at greater risk for developing type 2 diabetes later, screening is recommended.
Type 2 Diabetes:
Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition that affects the way the body processes glucose. It’s also associated with other abnormalities of your metabolism. Type 2 diabetes is more common than type 1 diabetes. Intensive lifestyle changes such as dieting, exercise, and shedding excess weight can help reverse the course of type 2 diabetes or delay its onset and progression.
Type 2 Diabetes Treatments:
Depending on the form of diabetes you have and the severity of the case, treatments will be different; however overall diabetes treatments include controlling your blood sugar through dieting, exercise, oral medicine, or insulin, as well as regular screening.
Type 2 diabetes treatments include:
- Diet, exercise and weight loss
- Glucose-lowering medications
- Insulin therapy
- Other medical interventions
Type 2 Diabetes Complications:
Some potential complications that can arise from diabetes, especially without proper control of blood glucose levels, include:
- Heart and blood vessel disease
- Certain forms of dementia
- Nerve damage (neuropathy)
- Kidney damage (nephropathy)
- Eye damage
- Foot damage
- Hearing impairment
- Skin conditions