Everything You Need to Know About Diabetes

Diabetes mellitus, also known as just diabetes, is a metabolic condition that raises blood sugar levels.

Insulin is a hormone that transports sugar from the blood into your cells where it can be stored or used as fuel. When you have diabetes, your body can’t use the insulin it does make or doesn’t produce enough of it.

Untreated high blood sugar from diabetes can damage your nerves, eyes, kidneys, and other organs. But educating yourself about diabetes and taking steps to prevent or manage it can help you protect your health.

Diabetes comes in a variety of forms: The uncommon condition known as diabetes insipidus is unrelated to diabetes mellitus despite sharing the same name. In a different circumstance, your kidneys are removed from your body too frequently.

Each type of diabetes has distinctive signs, causes, and treatments.

When your blood sugar is higher than normal but not high enough to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, the condition is known as prediabetes. It happens when your body’s cells don’t react to insulin as it should.

This can lead to type 2 diabetes down the road.

Experts suggest that more than 1 in 5 Indians have prediabetes, but over 80% of people with prediabetes don’t even know it.

Diabetes symptoms are caused by rising blood sugar.

General symptoms

The general symptoms of diabetes include:

Symptoms in men

In addition to the general symptoms of diabetes, men with diabetes may have:

Symptoms in women

Type 1 diabetes

Symptoms of type 1 diabetes can include:

It may also result in mood changes.

Type 2 diabetes

Symptoms of type 2 diabetes can include:

It may also cause recurring infections. This is because high glucose levels make it harder for the body to heal.

Gestational diabetes

Most people who develop gestational diabetes don’t have any symptoms. Healthcare professionals often detect the condition during a routine blood sugar test or oral glucose tolerance test, which is usually performed between the 24th and 28th weeks of pregnancy.

In rare cases, a person with gestational diabetes will also experience increased thirst or urination.

The bottom line

Diabetes symptoms can be so mild that they’re hard to spot at first. Learn which signs should prompt a trip to the doctor.

Different causes are associated with each type of diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes

Doctors don’t know exactly what causes type 1 diabetes. For some reason, the immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas.

Genes may play a role in some people. It’s also possible that a virus sets off an immune system attack.

Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes stems from a combination of genetics and lifestyle factors. Having overweight or obesity increases your risk, too. Carrying extra weight, especially in your belly, makes your cells more resistant to the effects of insulin on your blood sugar.

This condition runs in families. Family members share genes that make them more likely to get type 2 diabetes and to be overweight.

Gestational diabetes

Gestational diabetes occurs as the result of hormonal changes during pregnancy. The placenta produces hormones that make a pregnant person’s cells less sensitive to the effects of insulin. This can cause high blood sugar during pregnancy.

People who are overweight when they get pregnant or who gain too much weight during pregnancy are more likely to get gestational diabetes.

The bottom line

Both genes and environmental factors play a role in triggering diabetes.

Certain factors increase your risk for diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes

You’re more likely to get type 1 diabetes if you’re a child or teenager, you have a parent or sibling with the condition, or you carry certain genes that are linked to the disease.

Type 2 diabetes

Your risk for type 2 diabetes increases if you:

Type 2 diabetes also disproportionately affects certain racial and ethnic populations.

Adults who have African American, Hispanic or Latino American, or Asian American ancestry are more likely to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes than white adults, according to 2016 research. They’re also more likely to experience decreased quality of care and increased barriers to self-management.

Gestational diabetes

Your risk for gestational diabetes increases if you:

The bottom line

Your family history, environment, and preexisting medical conditions can all affect your odds of developing diabetes.

High blood sugar damages organs and tissues throughout your body. The higher your blood sugar is and the longer you live with it, the greater your risk for complications.

Complications associated with diabetes include:

Gestational diabetes

Unmanaged gestational diabetes can lead to problems that affect both the mother and baby. Complications affecting the baby can include:

A pregnant person with gestational diabetes can develop complications such as high blood pressure (preeclampsia) or type 2 diabetes. You may also require cesarean delivery, commonly referred to as a C-section.

The risk of gestational diabetes in future pregnancies also increases.

The bottom line

Diabetes can lead to serious medical complications, but you can manage the condition with medications and lifestyle changes.

Doctors treat diabetes with a few different medications. Some are taken by mouth, while others are available as injections.

Type 1 diabetes

Insulin is the main treatment for type 1 diabetes. It replaces the hormone your body isn’t able to produce.

Various types of insulin are commonly used by people with type 1 diabetes. They differ in how quickly they start to work and how long their effects last:

Type 2 diabetes

Diet and exercise can help some people manage type 2 diabetes. If lifestyle changes aren’t enough to lower your blood sugar, you’ll need to take medication.

These drugs lower your blood sugar in a variety of ways:

You may need to take more than one of these medications. Some people with type 2 diabetes also take insulin.

Gestational diabetes

If you receive a diagnosis of gestational diabetes, you’ll need to monitor your blood sugar level several times per day during pregnancy. If it’s high, dietary changes and exercise may be enough to bring it down.

Research has found that about 15% to 30% of women who develop gestational diabetes will need insulin to lower their blood sugar. Insulin is safe for the developing baby.

The bottom line

The treatment regimen your doctor recommends will depend on the type of diabetes you have and its cause.

Healthy eating is a central part of managing diabetes. In some cases, changing your diet may be enough to manage the disease.

Type 1 diabetes

Your blood sugar level rises or falls based on the types of foods you eat. Starchy or sugary foods make blood sugar levels rise rapidly. Protein and fat cause more gradual increases.

Your medical team may recommend that you limit the amount of carbohydrates you eat each day. You’ll also need to balance your carb intake with your insulin doses.

Type 2 diabetes

Eating the right types of foods can both manage your blood sugar and help you lose any excess weight.

Carb counting is an important part of eating for type 2 diabetes. A dietitian can help you figure out how many grams of carbohydrates to eat at each meal.

In order to keep your blood sugar levels steady, try to eat small meals throughout the day. Emphasize healthy foods such as:

Certain other foods can hurt efforts to manage your blood sugar.

Gestational diabetes

Eating a well-balanced diet is important for both you and your baby during these 9 months. Making the right food choices can also help you avoid diabetes medications.

Watch your portion sizes, and limit sugary or salty foods. Although you need some sugar to feed your growing baby, you should avoid eating too much. Check out other do’s and don’ts for healthy eating with gestational diabetes.

The bottom line

Work with a registered dietitian, if you have access to one. They can help you design an individualized diabetes meal plan. Getting the right balance of protein, fat, and carbs can help you manage your blood sugar.

Along with diet and treatment, exercise plays an essential role in diabetes management. This is true for all types of diabetes.

Staying active helps your cells react to insulin more effectively and lower your blood sugar levels. Exercising regularly can also help you:

If you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, general guidance is to aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week. There are currently no separate exercise guidelines for people who have gestational diabetes. But if you’re pregnant, start out slowly and gradually increase your activity level over time to avoid overdoing it.

Talk with your doctor about safe ways to incorporate activity into your diabetes management plan. You may need to follow special precautions, like checking your blood sugar before and after working out and making sure to stay hydrated.

Consider working with a personal trainer or exercise physiologist who has experience working with people who have diabetes. They can help you develop a personalized workout plan tailored to your needs.

Anyone who has symptoms of diabetes or is at risk for the condition should be tested. People are routinely tested for gestational diabetes during their second trimester or third trimester of pregnancy.


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