What Is Diabetes?

Diabetes occurs when glucose (sugar) builds up in the blood. When this happens, the body is not able to use the sugar for energy. This occurs when the pancreas does not make enough insulin or cannot use the insulin that it makes correctly. Think of diabetes as an "insulin problem" and not a "sugar problem."

When you do not have diabetes, food enters the stomach and turns into sugar. The pancreas is an organ near the stomach. It makes a hormone called insulin. When there is sugar in the blood, insulin is released. The sugar needs to get into your body's cells to give you energy. However, sugar cannot get into the cells without help. Insulin helps by working like a key. It unlocks the cell doors and allows sugar to enter the cell. Once the sugar enters the cell, it is used for energy or stored for later use.

With diabetes, the pancreas may not make any insulin or not enough insulin. Or sometimes, the body is unable to use the insulin it does make. So then the sugar remains in the bloodstream. This causes the blood sugar levels to rise too high.

The two most common types of diabetes are type 1 and type 2. In type 1 diabetes, the body does not make any insulin. Type 1 diabetes usually happens in children and young adults. People with type 1 diabetes must take insulin shots to stay alive. In type 2 diabetes, the body makes insulin. However, it cannot use insulin properly. Over time, the body makes less insulin. When people first learn they have type 2 diabetes they may not need medicine. They may control their diabetes through what they eat and exercise. Some people will need to take pills. As time goes on, insulin may be needed to control blood sugar levels.

What are the signs of diabetes? Some people may have these signs when they find out they have diabetes. Others may not have any signs. 1. Thirsty 2. Tired 3. Hungry 4. Losing weight 5. Going to the bathroom more often 6. Sores that do not heal 7. Blurry vision 8. Numbness in feet

If your blood sugar is too high for a long time, you may have problems with your heart, eyes, kidneys, nerves and feet. Keeping your blood sugar low can prevent these. There is not a cure for diabetes, but it can be controlled.

What you can do:

  • Get regular exercise
  • Eat healthy foods
  • Take your medicine
  • Monitor your blood sugars
  • Go to your doctor often
  • Lose weight, if needed

How can your doctor help you? Your doctor will talk to you about a good blood sugar range. He or she will answer your questions and offer tips and support. Your doctor can also refer you to diabetes educators so you can learn about diabetes.