Diabetes is a disease that occurs when your blood glucose, also called blood sugar, is too high. Blood glucose is your main source of energy and comes from the food you eat. Insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas, helps glucose from food get into your cells to be used for energy. Sometimes your body doesn’t make enough—or any—insulin or doesn’t use insulin well. Glucose then stays in your blood and doesn’t reach your cells.

Over time, having too much glucose in your blood can cause health problems. Although diabetes has no cure, you can take steps to manage your diabetes and stay healthy.

Sometimes people call diabetes “a touch of sugar” or “borderline diabetes.” These terms suggest that someone doesn’t really have diabetes or has a less serious case, but every case of diabetes is serious.

What are the different types of diabetes?

The most common types of diabetes are type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes

If you have type 1 diabetes, your body does not make insulin. Your immune system attacks and destroys the cells in your pancreas that make insulin. Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults, although it can appear at any age. People with type 1 diabetes need to take insulin every day to stay alive.

Symptoms & Causes of Diabetes

What are the symptoms of diabetes?

Symptoms of diabetes include

  • increased thirst and urination
  • increased hunger
  • fatigue
  • blurred vision
  • numbness or tingling in the feet or hands
  • sores that do not heal
  • unexplained weight loss

Symptoms of type 1 diabetes can start quickly, in a matter of weeks. Symptoms of type 2 diabetes often develop slowly—over the course of several years—and can be so mild that you might not even notice them. Many people with type 2 diabetes have no symptoms. Some people do not find out they have the disease until they have diabetes-related health problems, such as blurred vision or heart trouble.

What causes type 1 diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes occurs when your immune system, the body’s system for fighting infection, attacks and destroys the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas. Scientists think type 1 diabetes is caused by genes and environmental factors, such as viruses, that might trigger the disease. Studies such as TrialNet are working to pinpoint causes of type 1 diabetes and possible ways to prevent or slow the disease.

Diabetes Tests & Diagnosis

Your health care professional can diagnose diabetes, prediabetes, and gestational diabetes through blood tests. The blood tests show if your blood glucose, also called blood sugar, is too high.

Do not try to diagnose yourself if you think you might have diabetes. Testing equipment that you can buy over the counter, such as a blood glucose meter, cannot diagnose diabetes.

Who should be tested for diabetes?

Anyone who has symptoms of diabetes should be tested for the disease. Some people will not have any symptoms but may have risk factors for diabetes and need to be tested. Testing allows health care professionals to find diabetes sooner and work with their patients to manage diabetes and prevent complications.

Testing also allows health care professionals to find prediabetes. Making lifestyle changes to lose a modest amount of weight if you are overweight may help you delay or prevent type 2 diabetes.

Which tests help my health care professional know what kind of diabetes I have?

Even though the tests described here can confirm that you have diabetes, they can’t identify what type you have. Sometimes health care professionals are unsure if diabetes is type 1 or type 2. A rare type of diabetes that can occur in babies, called monogenic diabetes, can also be mistaken for type 1 diabetes. Treatment depends on the type of diabetes, so knowing which type you have is important.

To find out if your diabetes is type 1, your health care professional may look for certain autoantibodies. Autoantibodies are antibodies that mistakenly attack your healthy tissues and cells. The presence of one or more of several types of autoantibodies specific to diabetes is common in type 1 diabetes, but not in type 2 or monogenic diabetes. A health care professional will have to draw your blood for this test.

If you had diabetes while you were pregnant, you should get tested 6 to 12 weeks after your baby is born to see if you have type 2 diabetes.

Managing Diabetes

Devaprabu Abraham, MD

Patient Rating:

4.7

4.7 out of 5

Dr. Dev Abraham completed his graduate and post graduate training in India and in England respectively.  He joined the University of Utah internal medicine residency program in 1993 and then pursued endocrine fellowship training at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Following his fellowship training he returned to the University of Utah in 19... Read More

Amnon Schlegel, MD, PhD

Dr. Schlegel is a board certified specialist in Adult Endocrinology, Metabolism and Diabetes. Dr. Schlegel sees patients with lipid disorders at the Utah Diabetes and Endocrinology Center on a referral basis. He sees patients with all general endocrine disorders at the Salt Lake VA Medical Center Endocrine Clinic.... Read More

Specialties:

Adrenal Disorders, Clinical Lipid Specialist, Diabetes, Endocrinology & Metabolism, Hyperlipidemia, Hypertension, Hypertriglyceridemia, Lipids, Metabolic Syndrome, Osteoporosis & Metabolic Bone Disease, Pituitary, Prediabetes, Thyroid Disorders, Type 2 Diabetes

Locations:

Utah Diabetes Center 801-581-7761
Veterans Administration Medical Center 801-582-1565

Debra L. Simmons, MD, MS, FACE, FACP

Patient Rating:

4.6

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Dr. Debra Lynn Simmons is a professor of medicine at University of Utah and Director of Clinical Affairs, Utah Diabetes and Endocrinology Center. Dr. Simmons is board certified in internal medicine as well as endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism and a diplomate of the American Board of Clinical Lipidology. In addition to her medical degree from... Read More

Utah Diabetes & Endocrinology Center

615 Arapeen Drive, Ste. 100
Salt Lake City, Utah 84108
Map
801-581-7761