Having diabetes means that there is too much sugar (glucose) in your blood. Your blood always has some sugar in it because your body needs it for energy. But too much sugar in the blood is not good for your health.
When you digest food, your body breaks down much of the food into sugar. Your blood carries the sugar to the cells of your body for energy. Your body uses a hormone called insulin to help move the sugar from the bloodstream into the cells. Insulin is made by the pancreas. When your body does not have enough insulin, or has trouble using insulin, sugar cannot get into your cells. Sugar builds up in your blood. Too much sugar in your blood can cause many problems.
There are 2 main types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2.
Doctors don’t know how to prevent type 1 diabetes. However, type 2 diabetes, which is much more common than type 1, can often be prevented by controlling risk factors. You can't change your family history or your age, but you can change your lifestyle. Choosing healthy foods, keeping a healthy weight, and getting regular exercise can keep you from developing type 2 diabetes.
Risk factors for type 2 diabetes that you cannot easily control include:
Risk factors that you may be able to control include:
One of the problems with type 2 diabetes is that it can be silent for months or years. That’s why it’s so important to be checked periodically if you are at risk. When diabetes does start to cause symptoms, common symptoms are:
Untreated diabetes can have serious consequences. Diabetes can damage small blood vessels and nerves, causing problems in the eyes, heart, brain, kidneys, blood vessels, skin, and feet. The risks for high blood pressure, a stroke, and problems with the heart and blood vessels are much higher for people with diabetes. The risks for loss of vision, even blindness, are also increased. Numbness and tingling in the hands and feet are common problems due to nerve damage. Men with diabetes may start having trouble with erections. If your blood sugar level gets too high, you may go into a coma or die.