What is Diabetes?

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic, metabolic disease characterized by elevated levels of blood glucose (or blood sugar), which leads over time to serious damage to the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys and nerves. The most common is type 2 diabetes, usually in adults, which occurs when the body becomes resistant to insulin or doesn't make enough insulin. In the past 3 decades the prevalence of type 2 diabetes has risen dramatically in countries of all income levels. Type 1 diabetes, once known as juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes, is a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin by itself. For people living with diabetes, access to affordable treatment, including insulin, is critical to their survival. There is a globally agreed target to halt the rise in diabetes and obesity by 2025. 

About 422 million people worldwide have diabetes, the majority living in low-and middle-income countries, and 1.5 million deaths are directly attributed to diabetes each year. Both the number of cases and the prevalence of diabetes have been steadily increasing over the past few decades. 

Types of Diabetes

There are three main types of diabetes: type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes (diabetes while pregnant).

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is thought to be caused by an autoimmune reaction (the body attacks itself by mistake). This reaction stops your body from making insulin. Approximately 5-10% of the people who have diabetes have type 1. Type 1 diabetes can be diagnosed at any age, and symptoms often develop quickly. 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 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.
  • Being active.

Gestational Diabetes

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. However, it increases your risk for type 2 diabetes later in life. Your baby is more likely to have obesity as a child or teen and develop type 2 diabetes later in life.

Prediabetes

In the United States, about 98 million adults—more than 1 in 3—have prediabetes. More than 8 in 10 of them don’t know they have it. With prediabetes, blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough for a type 2 diabetes diagnosis. Prediabetes raises your risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. But there’s good news. If you have prediabetes, a CDC-recognized lifestyle change program can help you take healthy steps to reverse it.

Back to blog