Diabetes mellitus is a condition in which insulin, an important hormone in regulating blood sugar levels (also called blood glucose), is not processed correctly. The two most common forms of diabetes are type 1 and type 2.

Insulin is a hormone, it allows blood sugar to be taken up by cells in the body where it is used for energy. When there is no insulin, the blood sugar cannot enter cells, so it builds up and causes complications due to high blood sugar (hyperglycemia).

High blood sugar's possible symptoms include increased thirst, blurry vision, frequent urination, increased hunger, and numbness in the feet. A few possible early symptoms are fatigue, weight loss, slow-healing cuts and sores, and high sugar levels in urine and blood. If hyperglycemia goes untreated it can develop into diabetic ketoacidosis.

Prediabetes, Type 1 and Type 2

Type 1 diabetes is the form of diabetes where the pancreas makes little to no insulin. The causes of type 1 diabetes are not yet known, and there is no known way to prevent it. It is known that the immune system of the individual destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, which is why there is so little insulin produced (this process can take months or years). Ways to live with type 1 diabetes including regular checkups and careful control of blood sugar.

Prediabetes is a condition which can lead to type 2 diabetes. More than one in three Americans has prediabetes, many (more than 90%) of them do not know they have it. For many with prediabetes, sometimes certain lifestyle changes can make the condition reversible or can improve their quality of life and delay type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is caused by the cells of the body becoming resistant to insulin. The pancreas is then unable to make enough insulin, as a result of insulin resistance, sugar builds up in the bloodstream instead of entering cells which need the sugar for energy. A few signs of insulin resistance are high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and weight gain (belly fat). The causes of type 2 diabetes are better known than type 1; genetic, behavioral, and environmental factors can contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes in a person.


The symptoms of diabetes can vary depending on the individual and with the type of diabetes they have. With type 1 diabetes, symptoms tend to arise more quickly and be more severe. A few signs and symptoms that are common for type 1 and type 2 diabetes include:

  • Increased thirst,
  • Frequent urination,
  • Extreme hunger, fatigue,
  • Irritability,
  • Blurred vision,
  • Slow-healing sores,
  • Unexplained weight loss,
  • Frequent infections,
  • The presence of ketones in that person's urine.

Risk Factors

Type 1: Risk factors for type 1 diabetes include a family history of type 1 diabetes, certain environmental factors, and presence of autoantibodies in the immune system.

Type 2: Risk factors for type 2 diabetes include being overweight, inactivity, family history, race, age, a history of gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol levels, and polycystic ovary syndrome.

Living With

With any form of diabetes, a great deal of care must be taken to maintain health. Certain indicators, like an a1c and blood sugar levels can be used to check how well a diabetes patient is managing.

  • Type 2 diabetes management: healthy eating and regular exercise can be helpful. Insulin or other diabetes medicines can be used to help control blood sugar in order to avoid complications. Blood pressure and cholesterol management are also important, a screening for both can be an important part of diabetes management. Reducing stress, getting enough sleep, and relaxation can make managing your diabetes easier. Diabetes patients should have regular checkups, and may want to speak with a diabetes educator to help them with the details of their self-management. A few recommended dietary changes are decreases in fat and calories, increase fiber, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
  • Type 1 diabetes management: Insulin shots or an insulin pump are often necessary for managing type 1 diabetes, your doctor will work with you on the correct dosage and frequency of your insulin. Type 1 diabetes usually requires the patient to check blood sugar levels regularly, and keeping them as close to the target level as possible. Certain lifestyle changes, like regular physical activity, blood pressure control, dietary changes, cholesterol level control, and managing stress can be important ways to monitor and improve your health.
  • Low blood sugar, often called hypoglycemia, can occur quickly and must be treated immediately. Low blood sugar can be caused by too much insulin, not eating enough or on time, and too much physical activity. Symptoms of hypoglycemia include shakiness, nervousness/anxiety, blurred vision, fatigue, mood changes like anger, stubbornness, or sadness, as well as irritability, dizziness, sweating or clamminess, hunger, or nausea.