The term "diabetes" covers
several diseases caused by
problems with insulin, the hormone
that helps maintain a healthy
level of glucose -- the sugar your
body uses for energy -- in your
body. When you don't have enough
insulin, or your body's cells are
prevented from receiving and using
this hormone (so-called "insulin
resistance"), unused glucose
builds up in your blood -- a
condition called "hyperglycemia."
Diabetes is a condition of chronic
hyperglycemia that often causes no
symptoms for years while
irreversibly damaging major body
organs and systems including eyes,
heart and blood vessels, brain,
Don't hop up and run to the
bathroom right after you make
love. Lying down for at least a
What are the different types of diabetes?
About one in 10 people with diabetes has type 1 diabetes
mellitus, which usually develops during childhood, with loss of adequate
insulin production in the body and need for daily administration of
insulin. Type 2 diabetes mellitus is far more common, affecting some 15
million Americans; it most often occurs in people who are over age 40
and obese but is increasingly seen in obese children, paralleling the
rising rate of obesity in Americans of all ages. Type 2 diabetics
produce some insulin, but the body doesn't respond effectively to it, a
condition called "insulin resistance." Gestational diabetes -- in which
a woman's first occurrence of diabetic signs and symptoms occurs during
pregnancy -- is relatively rare.
What are the signs and symptoms of diabetes?
Generally speaking, symptoms include frequent urination,
extreme thirst, blurred vision, fatigue, unexplained weight loss, and
hunger. Slow healing and recurring vulval, bladder, and skin infections
may occur, and tingling or numbness in hands or feet. Important: Type 2
diabetics may go for years without symptoms -- increasing the risk of
Is there a test for diabetes?
Testing a person's urine for glucose was once used to detect
diabetes, but a test called "fasting blood glucose" is now considered
more accurate. For this test, you fast (don't eat) overnight or for 8
hours. Then a blood sample is drawn to measure your glucose level.
"Normal" blood glucose is between 70 and 100 milligrams per deciliter of
blood (mg/dL). A level of 126 mg/dL or greater on two tests confirms the
diagnosis of diabetes. It's recommended that adults have a fasting blood
glucose test at age 45 and every 3 years thereafter.
How is diabetes treated?
Let's start by talking about self-care to prevent the onset of
diabetes -- in particular, about maintaining a healthy weight, which
helps prevent type 2 diabetes. A healthy diet with moderate portions
helps keep diabetes at bay, as does regular exercise. People diagnosed
with diabetes may receive daily insulin injections (almost always needed
for type 1 diabetes); prescription drugs that lower blood glucose or
promote insulin action; or a combination of these therapies. If you have
diabetes, your doctor is your best source for information about your
personal treatment needs.