Diabetes is a chronic (long-lasting) health condition that affects how your body turns food into energy.
Most of the food you eat is broken down by your digestive system into sugar (glucose) and released into your bloodstream. When your blood sugar goes up, your pancreas gets signaled to release insulin. Insulin is a key to let the blood sugar into your body’s cells for use as energy.
If you have diabetes, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use the insulin it makes as well as it should. When that happens, too much blood sugar stays in your bloodstream. Over time, that can cause serious health issues, such as heart disease, vision loss, and kidney disease.
There isn’t a cure for diabetes at this time, but losing weight, eating healthy food, and being active can really help manage your condition and improve health. Taking medicine as directed by your doctor, getting diabetes self-management education and support, and keeping health care appointments can also reduce the impact of diabetes on your life.
Types of Diabetes
Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is due to an autoimmune reaction (the body attacks itself by mistake) that stops your body from making insulin. Approximately 5-10% of the people who have diabetes have type 1. Symptoms of type 1 diabetes can often develop quickly. It’s usually diagnosed in children, teens, and young adults. If you have type 1 diabetes, you’ll need to take insulin every day to survive. Currently, no one knows how to prevent type 1 diabetes.
Type 2 Diabetes
With type 2 diabetes, your body doesn’t use insulin well and can’t keep blood sugar at normal levels. About 90-95% of people with diabetes have type 2. It develops over many years and is usually diagnosed in adults (but is also found more and more in children, teens, and young adults). You may not notice any symptoms, so it’s important to get your blood sugar tested if you’re at risk. Type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed with healthy lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, eating healthy food, and being active.
Gestational diabetes develops in pregnant women who have never had diabetes. If you have gestational diabetes, your baby could be at higher risk for health problems. Gestational diabetes usually goes away after your baby is born but increases your risk for type 2 diabetes later in life. Your baby is more likely to have obesity as a child or teen, and more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life too.
In the United States, 88 million adults—more than 1 in 3—have prediabetes. What’s more, more than 84% of them don’t know they have it. With prediabetes, blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough yet to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes. Prediabetes raises your risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. The good news is if you have prediabetes, a CDC-recognized lifestyle change program can help you take healthy steps to reverse it.
Diabetes by the Numbers
- 2 million US adults have diabetes, and 1 in 5 of them don’t know they have it.
- Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States.
- Diabetes is the #1 cause of kidney failure, lower-limb amputations, and adult blindness.
- In the last 20 years, the number of adults diagnosed with diabetes has more than doubled.
The following symptoms of diabetes are typical. However, some people with type 2 diabetes have symptoms so mild that they go unnoticed.
Common symptoms of diabetes:
- Urinating often
- Feeling very thirsty
- Feeling very hungry—even though you are eating
- Extreme fatigue
- Blurry vision
- Cuts/bruises that are slow to heal
- Weight loss—even though you are eating more
- Tingling, pain, or numbness in the hands/feet
5 tips for taking control
Lifestyle changes can help prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes, the most common form of the disease. Making a few changes in your lifestyle now may help you avoid the serious health complications of diabetes in the future, such as nerve, kidney and heart damage.
Chronic Kidney Disease Screening for people with diabetes
If you have diabetes, ask your doctor about kidney disease.
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) often develops slowly and with few symptoms. Many people don’t realize they have CKD until it’s advanced and they need dialysis (a treatment that filters the blood) or a kidney transplant to survive.
If you have diabetes, get your kidneys checked regularly, which is done by your doctor with simple blood and urine tests. Regular testing is your best chance for identifying CKD early if you do develop it. Early treatment is most effective and can help prevent additional health problems.
CKD is common in people with diabetes. Approximately 1 in 3 adults with diabetes has CKD. Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes can cause kidney disease.