What is Diabetes?


Diabetes happens when the body does not have enough insulin to move glucose from the blood to the cells. This causes it to build up in the blood instead of being used by the cells for energy. Type 2 is more common in adults.


Type 1 diabetes happen when the body does not make insulin (this usually happens at a young age, but not always.)

Type 2 happens when the body becomes resistant to insulin or when the pancreas cannot make enough. This may be due to a person’s genes and habits.

Risk Factors

Type 2 is more common in people with obesity and those over 45 years of age. People who are American Indian, Alaska natives, Afro American, and Hispanic are at higher risk. Some other common risks are:


Most people do not have problems right away. Others may have:

  • Excessive urination
  • Excessive thirst
  • Hunger
  • Blurry eyesight
  • Weight loss
  • Being very tired
  • Frequent infections (especially urinary tract and vaginal yeast infections)


The provider will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done.

Diabetes is diagnosed with blood tests that check for high glucose levels. More than one test may be done.

These blood tests will also be done to find out whether it is type 1 or type 2:

  • Insulin level or C-peptide tests to see how much insulin is being made by the pancreas
  • Tests that look for antibodies that are working against the pancreas


The goal is to keep glucose levels at close to target levels. This can be done with:

Healthy Habits

Healthy habits can help manage type 2, such as:

  • Testing blood glucose levels as needed or recommended
  • Working with a dietitian to make a meal plan that will help keep blood glucose levels normal
  • Getting enough exercise
  • Reaching a healthy weight


Most people may need medicine to control blood glucose.  Metformin is a common oral medication that is given as a first step.

There are many options including oral and injectable medications for treating diabetes if the initial treatment choice is inadequate. This may include insulin which may be given by injection, inhalation or pump.


Although it may not be possible to prevent the onset of diabetes, following healthy habits such as exercising, staying at a healthy weight, and eating right will lower the risk of developing diabetes.


American Diabetes Association: http://www.diabetes.org

National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse: http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov

Canadian Resources

Canadian Diabetes Association: http://www.diabetes.ca

Public Health Agency of Canada: http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca


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EBSCO Medical Review Board Daniel A. Ostrovsky, MD