Diabetes


Fact: It is estimated by 2050, 1 in 3 Adults will have Diabetes

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes, often referred to by doctors as diabetes mellitus, is a group of metabolic diseases in which a person has high blood glucose or blood sugar, either because insulin production is inadequate, or because the body's cells do not respond properly to insulin, or both. People with high blood sugar will typically experience frequent urination, will become both increasingly thirsty and hungry.

What are some of the complications of Diabetes?

People with diabetes have an increased risk of developing a number of serious health problems. Consistently high blood glucose levels can lead to serious diseases affecting the heart and blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, nerves and teeth. In addition, people with diabetes also have a higher risk of developing infections. In almost all high-income countries, diabetes is a leading cause of cardiovascular disease, blindness, kidney failure, andlower limb amputation.

Maintaining blood glucose levels, blood pressure, and cholesterol at or close to normal can help delay or prevent diabetes complications. Therefore people with diabetes need regular monitoring.


Cardiovascular disease: affects the heart and blood vessels and may cause fatal complications such as coronary artery disease (leading to heart attack) and stroke. Cardiovascular disease is the most common cause of death in people with diabetes. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood glucose and other risk factors contribute to increasing the risk of cardiovascular complications.

Kidney disease (diabetic nephropathy): caused by damage to small blood vessels in the kidneys leading to the kidneys becoming less efficient or to fail altogether. Kidney disease is much more common in people with diabetes than in those without diabetes. Maintaining near normal levels of blood glucose and blood pressure can greatly reduce the risk of kidney disease.

Nerve disease (diabetic neuropathy): diabetes can cause damage to the nerves throughout the body when blood glucose and blood pressure are too high. This can lead to problems with digestion, erectile dysfunction, and many other functions. Among the most commonly affected areas are the extremities, in particular the feet. Nerve damage in these areas is called peripheral neuropathy, and can lead to pain, tingling, and loss of feeling. Loss of feeling is particularly important because it can allow injuries to go unnoticed, leading to serious infections and possible amputations. People with diabetes carry a risk of amputation that may be more than 25 times greater than that of people without diabetes. However, with comprehensive management, a large proportion of amputations related to diabetes can be prevented. Even when amputation takes place, the remaining leg and the person’s life can be saved by good follow-up care from a multidisciplinary foot team. People with diabetes should regularly examine their feet.

Eye disease (diabetic retinopathy): most people with diabetes will develop some form of eye disease (retinopathy) causing reduced vision or blindness. Consistently high levels of blood glucose, together with high blood pressure and high cholesterol, are the main causes of retinopathy. It can be managed through regular eye checks and keeping glucose and lipid levels at or close to normal.

Pregnancy complications: Women with any type of diabetes during pregnancy risk a number of complications if they do not carefully monitor and manage their condition. To prevent possible organ damage to the fetus, women with type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes should achieve target glucose levels before conception. All women with diabetes during pregnancy, type 1, type 2 or gestational should strive for target blood glucose levels throughout to minimize complications. High blood glucose during pregnancy can lead to the foetus putting on excess weight. This can lead to problems in delivery, trauma to the child and mother, and a sudden drop in blood glucose for the child after birth. Children who are exposed for a long time to high blood glucose in the womb are at higher risk of developing diabetes in the future

What types of Diabetes are there?

There are three types of diabetes:

1) Type 1 Diabetes

The body does not produce insulin. Some people may refer to this type as insulin-dependent diabetesjuvenile diabetes, or early-onset diabetes. People usually develop type 1 diabetes before their 40th year, often in early adulthood or teenage years.

Type 1 diabetes is nowhere near as common as type 2 diabetes. Approximately 10% of all diabetes cases are type 1.

Patients with type 1 diabetes will need to take insulin injections for the rest of their life. They must also ensure proper blood-glucose levels by carrying out regular blood tests and following a special diet.

Between 2001 and 2009, the prevalence of type 1 diabetes among the under 20s in the USA rose 23%, according toSEARCH for Diabetes in Youth data issued by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

2) Type 2 Diabetes

The body does not produce enough insulin for proper function, or the cells in the body do not react to insulin (insulin resistance).

Approximately 90% of all cases of diabetes worldwide are of this type.

Measuring the glucose level in blood
Some people may be able to control their type 2 diabetes symptoms by losing weight, following a healthy diet, doing plenty of exercise, and monitoring their blood glucose levels. However, type 2 diabetes is typically a progressive disease - it gradually gets worse - and the patient will probably end up have to take insulin, usually in tablet form.

Overweight and obese people have a much higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to those with a healthy body weight. People with a lot of visceral fat, also known as central obesity, belly fat, or abdominal obesity, are especially at risk. Being overweight/obese causes the body to release chemicals that can destabilize the body's cardiovascular and metabolic systems.

Being overweight, physically inactive and eating the wrong foods all contribute to our risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Drinking just one can of (non-diet) soda per day can raise our risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 22%, researchers from Imperial College London reported in the journal Diabetologia. The scientists believe that the impact of sugary soft drinks on diabetes risk may be a direct one, rather than simply an influence on body weight.

The risk of developing type 2 diabetes is also greater as we get older. Experts are not completely sure why, but say that as we age we tend to put on weight and become less physically active. Those with a close relative who had/had type 2 diabetes, people of Middle Eastern, African, or South Asian descent also have a higher risk of developing the disease.

Men whose testosterone levels are low have been found to have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Researchers from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, say that low testosterone levels are linked to insulin resistance.

3) Gestational Diabetes
This type affects females during pregnancy. Some women have very high levels of glucose in their blood, and their bodies are unable to produce enough insulin to transport all of the glucose into their cells, resulting in progressively rising levels of glucose.

Diagnosis of gestational diabetes is made during pregnancy.

The majority of gestational diabetes patients can control their diabetes with exercise and diet. Between 10% to 20% of them will need to take some kind of blood-glucose-controlling medications. Undiagnosed or uncontrolled gestational diabetes can raise the risk of complications during childbirth. The baby may be bigger than he/she should be.

Scientists from the National Institutes of Health and Harvard University found that women whose diets before becoming pregnant were high in animal fat and cholesterol had a higher risk for gestational diabetes, compared to their counterparts whose diets were low in cholesterol and animal fats.

What are the symptoms of Diabetes?

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 (type 1)
  • Tingling, pain, or numbness in the hands/feet (type 2)

What are some of the Statistics?

  • Prevalence: In 2012, 29.1 million Americans, or 9.3% of the population, had diabetes. In 2010 the figures were 25.8 million and 8.3%.
  • Undiagnosed: Of the 29.1 million, 21.0 million were diagnosed, and 8.1 million were undiagnosed. In 2010 the figures were 18.8 million and 7.0 million.
  • Prevalence in Seniors: The percentage of Americans age 65 and older remains high, at 25.9%, or 11.8 million seniors (diagnosed and undiagnosed).
  • New Cases: The incidence of diabetes in 2012 was 1.7 million new diagnoses/year; in 2010 it was 1.9 million.
  • Prediabetes: In 2012, 86 million Americans age 20 and older had prediabetes; this is up from 79 million in 2010.
  • Deaths: Diabetes remains the 7th leading cause of death in the United States in 2010, with 69,071 death certificates listing it as the underlying cause of death, and a total of 234,051 death certificates listing diabetes as an underlying or contributing cause of death.
Want to learn more?

The following are organizations and/or websites dedicated to providing information and education surrounding Diabetes. These organizations are dedicated to research, education, awareness, and/or support. They are listed in Alphabetical order without any preference or prejudice. Listing these organizations is not a recommendation or referral in any regard for seeking treatment or consultation or support for treatment.


American Diabetes Association
Children's Diabetes Foundation
Diabetes Research Institute Foundation
International Diabetes Federation
JDRF - Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation
Joslin Diabetes Center
Teaching Kids About Diabetes
World Diabetes foundation