The Basics: Overview
Diabetes (“dy-ah-BEE-teez”) is a leading cause of disability and death in the United States. If it’s not managed, diabetes can cause serious health problems.
There’s no cure for diabetes, but it can be managed. Unmanaged diabetes increases the risk of:
- Nerve damage
- Kidney disease
- Heart disease
The good news is that you can do a lot to prevent or delay getting type 2 diabetes, including:
- Watching your weight
- Eating healthy
- Staying active
To get started, make your game plan to prevent type 2 diabetes [PDF - 7 MB].
The Basics: Types of Diabetes
What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a disease. People with diabetes have too much glucose (sugar) in their blood.
Your body depends on glucose for energy. When you eat, most of the food turns into glucose. Your blood carries the glucose to other parts of your body.
When you have diabetes, your body has trouble turning glucose into energy. Instead of being used by your body, the glucose builds up in your blood. The rest of your body is starved of energy.
What is type 2 diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. People who are overweight are more likely to get type 2 diabetes.
What are the other types of diabetes?
- Type 1 diabetes is caused by a problem with the immune system (the system that helps fight infection). Type 1 diabetes can’t be prevented.
- Gestational (“jes-TAY-shon-al”) diabetes is a type of diabetes that some women develop during pregnancy. Gestational diabetes increases the risk for developing type 2 diabetes after pregnancy.
The Basics: Am I at Risk?
Am I at risk for type 2 diabetes?
You may be at risk for type 2 diabetes if you:
- Are age 40 or older
- Are overweight
- Have a parent or sibling with diabetes
- Are African American, Hispanic or Latino American, American Indian, Asian American, or Pacific Islander
- Have had gestational diabetes or have had a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds at birth.
- Have high blood pressure or cholesterol
- Exercise less than 3 times a week
- Have prediabetes
What is prediabetes?
People with prediabetes have more glucose in their blood than normal, but not enough to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Prediabetes increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and other serious health problems, like heart disease and stroke. Find out more about prediabetes.
The Basics: Signs
What are the signs of diabetes?
Many people with diabetes don’t know they have it. Some signs of diabetes include:
- Being very thirsty or very hungry
- Feeling tired for no reason
- Urinating (going to the bathroom) more than usual
- Losing weight for no reason
- Having cuts or bruises that are slow to heal
- Having trouble seeing (blurry vision)
- Losing feeling or having tingling in your hands or feet
Not everyone who has diabetes has these signs. If you have any of these signs or think you may be at risk, talk with your doctor about getting tested for diabetes.