Skip directly to search Skip directly to A to Z list Skip directly to navigation Skip directly to page options Skip directly to site content

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease in which blood glucose levels are above normal.

Most of the food we eat is turned into glucose, or sugar, for our bodies to use for energy. The pancreas, an organ that is located near the stomach, makes a hormone called insulin to help glucose get into the cells of our bodies. When people have diabetes, their bodies either do not make enough insulin or cannot use insulin as well as they should. When this happens, glucose builds up in the blood.

High blood sugar levels can lead to fatigue, excessive thirst and urination, more infections and slower healing, and can lead to heart disease, stroke, eye problems including blindness, nerve damage and loss of limbs, kidney problems, and gum disease leading to tooth loss.

The three main types of diabetes:

Type 1 (previously called insulin-dependent or juvenile-onset) diabetes, primarily diagnosed in children and teens, accounts for approximately 5% of all diagnosed cases of diabetes in adults. Type 2 (previously called non-insulin-dependent or adult-onset) diabetes accounts for 90%-95% of all diagnosed cases of diabetes in adults. Type 1 diabetes is increasingly being diagnosed in children and adolescents. Gestational diabetes occurs in 2%-10% of pregnancies. Women who have had gestational diabetes have a 35%-60% chance of developing diabetes, mostly type 2, in the following 10-20 years.

Prediabetes:  In addition to these three types of diabetes more than 79 million Americans aged 20 years or older have a prediabetes. Prediabetes is a condition in which individuals have blood glucose levels higher than normal but not high enough to be classified as diabetes. People with prediabetes have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Unfortunately the development of prediabetes and its complications hits hard during the working years.

Diabetes can lead to serious complications and premature death, but people with diabetes can take steps to control the disease and lower the risk of complications. Managing diabetes is possible with proper medical care, support, and motivation.

Learning more about diabetes prevention and management is simple. The National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP), a joint program from CDC and NIH, offers many evidenced based materials that are free for use by your company. NDEP Diabetes HealthSense provides more information regarding diabetes prevention and management. Additional tools are available from the American Diabetes Association and the Diabetes Self-Care a Web site sponsored by the American Association of Diabetes Educators.