Diabetes mellitus refers to a group of diseases that affect how your body uses blood sugar (glucose). Glucose is vital to your health because it’s an important source of energy for the cells that make up your muscles and tissues. It’s also your brain’s main source of fuel.
- More than 30 million people in the United States have diabetes, and 1 in 4 of them don’t know they have it.
- More than 84 million US adults—over a third—have prediabetes, and 90% of them don’t know they have it.
- Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the United States (and may be underreported).
- Type 2 diabetes accounts for about 90% to 95% of all diagnosed cases of diabetes; type 1 diabetes accounts for about 5%.
- In the last 20 years, the number of adults diagnosed with diabetes has more than doubled as the American population has aged and become more overweight or obese.
Type 1 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 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults, although it can appear at any age. People with type 1 diabetes need to take insulin every day to stay alive.
Type 2 diabetes
If you have type 2 diabetes, your body does not make or use insulin well. You can develop type 2 diabetes at any age, even during childhood. However, this type of diabetes occurs most often in middle-aged and older people. Type 2 is the most common type of diabetes.
Different causes are associated with each type of diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes
Doctors don’t know exactly what causes type 1 diabetes. For some reason, the immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas.
Genes may play a role in some people. It’s also possible that a virus sets off the immune system attack.
Type 2 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes stems from a combination of genetics and lifestyle factors. Being overweight or obese increases your risk too. Carrying extra weight, especially in your belly, makes your cells more resistant to the effects of insulin on your blood sugar.
This condition runs in families. Family members share genes that make them more likely to get type 2 diabetes and to be overweight.
How to Identify?
Anyone who has symptoms of diabetes or is at risk for the disease should be tested. Women are routinely tested for gestational diabetes during their second or third trimesters of pregnancy.
Doctors use these blood tests to diagnose prediabetes and diabetes:
- The fasting plasma glucose (FPG) test measures your blood sugar after you’ve fasted for 8 hours.
- The A1C test provides a snapshot of your blood sugar levels over the previous 3 months.
- Frequent urination
- Extreme hunger
- Unexplained weight loss
- Presence of ketones in the urine (ketones are a byproduct of the breakdown of muscle and fat that happens when there’s not enough available insulin)
- Increased thirst
- Blurred vision
- Slow-healing sores
- Frequent infections, such as gums or skin infections and vaginal infections
What to Do?
Type 1 diabetes isn’t preventable because it’s caused by a problem with the immune system. Some causes of type 2 diabetes, such as your genes or age, aren’t under your control either.
Yet many other diabetes risk factors are controllable. Most diabetes prevention strategies involve making simple adjustments to your diet and fitness routine.