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Diabetes: The Basics

Diabetes is a chronic (incurable) disease that affects how the body turns food into energy. Most of the food we consume is broken down into sugar (also known as glucose) and released into the bloodstream. When the sugar in our blood increases, our pancreas is signaled to release insulin. Insulin acts like a key to let the blood sugar into our body’s cells for energy. For individuals with diabetes, their body either doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use the insulin it makes as well as it should. When there isn’t enough insulin produced or cells stop responding to insulin, too much sugar stays in the bloodstream. As time goes on, this can cause serious health problems, such as heart disease, vision loss, and kidney disease. While there is currently no cure for diabetes, losing weight, a healthy diet, and being active can help manage symptoms. Some individuals diagnosed with diabetes may need to supplement their lifestyle changes with prescription medication prescribed by their primary care provider. (CDC, 2020)

Types of Diabetes:

  • Prediabetes

  • Type 1 Diabetes

  • Type 2 Diabetes

  • Type 3C or Pancreatogenic Diabetes

  • Gestational Diabetes

Prediabetes: If glucose numbers are higher than normal, this could be a sign of prediabetes. This means the body is becoming resistant to insulin and is growing less efficient at removing sugar from the blood and converting it into energy. Genetics and lifestyle, including diet and exercise, are risk factors for prediabetes. If left untreated, prediabetes can develop into type 2 diabetes. The good news is that prediabetes can be reversed with treatment and lifestyle changes. A well-balanced diet, increased physical activity, and taking any medications as prescribed can help restore the body's ability to regulate blood sugar levels.

Type 1 Diabetes: Type 1 diabetes is caused by an autoimmune reaction (when the body attacks itself by mistake) that stops the body from making insulin. Approximately 5-10% of individuals with diabetes have type 1. Symptoms of type 1 diabetes often develop quickly. It’s usually diagnosed in children, teens, and young adults. Typically, type 1 diabetes patients rely on insulin as their main course of treatment. While research is ongoing, there is currently no information on how to prevent type 1 diabetes.

Type 2 Diabetes: With type 2 diabetes, the body produces insulin but is unable to use it properly and can’t keep blood sugar at normal levels. About 90-95% of individuals with diabetes have type 2. It develops over many years and is usually diagnosed in adults, but can also be found in children, teens, and young adults. Individuals may not notice any symptoms, so regularly testing blood sugar levels is crucial for those at risk. Type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed with healthy lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, eating healthy food, and being active.

Type 3C or Pancreatogenic Diabetes: Pancreatogenic diabetes, also known as type 3c diabetes, is caused by a pancreas whose normal functions have been destroyed. This destruction can be caused by various factors such as inflammation, surgery, and tumors on the pancreas.

Gestational Diabetes: Gestational diabetes develops in pregnant persons who have never had diabetes. While this type of diabetes typically goes away once the baby is delivered, both the parent and baby are at an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

Common symptoms of diabetes can include:

  • Increased thirst

  • Increased hunger

  • Frequent urination

  • Fatigue

  • Blurry vision

  • Cuts or sores that are slow to heal

  • Mood changes or irritability

If not properly managed, high blood sugar can lead to problems such as:

  • Heart disease

  • Stroke

  • Kidney disease

  • Eye problems

  • Dental disease

  • Nerve damage

  • Foot problems

Managing Diabetes

The first step to managing your diabetes is understanding which type you have. If you have symptoms of diabetes or are at an increased risk for developing diabetes, talk with your doctor right away. It is important to diagnose diabetes early so you can start learning how to manage symptoms and keep your blood sugar at a healthy level. In most cases, diabetes can be managed with a healthy lifestyle and medication. No matter what type of diabetes you have, it's important to also manage your stress by getting enough sleep, connecting with loved ones, making time to relax and keeping a positive attitude.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National diabetes statistics report, (June 11, 2020).

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