Diabetes

Diabetes occurs when the body has trouble using the sugar it gets from food for energy. Sugar builds up in the bloodstream. High blood sugar can have immediate effects, like blurry vision. It can also cause problems over time, like heart disease and blindness.

There are two main types of diabetes: type 1 diabetes (once called juvenile-onset diabetes) and type 2 diabetes (once called adult-onset diabetes). Both are caused by problems making or using insulin, a hormone that makes it possible for cells to use glucose, also known as blood sugar, for energy.

When you eat, your body breaks down carbohydrates into a simple sugar called glucose. It also produces a hormone called insulin that signals the body's cells to absorb glucose from the bloodstream. Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body doesn't make enough insulin, or stops making it altogether. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body's cells don't respond to insulin. Either way, since sugar can't get into cells, it builds up in the bloodstream. 

Too much sugar in the blood can cause a range of uncomfortable symptoms. These include:

  • blurry vision
  • intense thirst
  • need to urinate often
  • fatigue
  • numbness or tingling in the hands or feet

Type 1 diabetes often comes on suddenly. It usually strikes children and teenagers, but can appear later in life. It is an autoimmune disease, meaning it happens because the body's immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys the body's insulin-making cells. Type 1 diabetes can't be cured, but it can be managed by taking insulin before eating.

Type 2 diabetes takes longer to develop. It can begin any time from childhood onward. Type 2 diabetes is usually triggered by being overweight or obese and not getting much physical activity. Treatment for type 2 diabetes includes weight loss if needed, daily exercise, a healthy diet, and medications.

Diabetes Articles

Ask the doctor: Statins and the risk of diabetes

Statins may raise blood sugar levels in a small number of people, possibly triggering a diagnosis of diabetes. But the overall benefit of statins in treating heart disease outweighs any slight increase in the risk of diabetes.  (Locked) More »

The diabetes-heart disease connection and what it means for you

High blood sugar and other diabetes-related problems harm the heart in several major ways. There are now many ways to control the disease and reduce heart risk. In addition to lifestyle changes that benefit both diseases, there are new and effective medications available to control blood sugar.   (Locked) More »

Protect your memory and thinking skills

Any increase in blood sugar levels is linked to an increased risk of developing dementia. Researchers speculate that this may be because high blood sugar levels are causing more vascular disease or because of insulin resistance. There’s no direct proof that reducing blood sugar level reduces dementia risk. However, there are many reasons to keep glucose levels lower. Excess blood sugar can lead to a variety of health problems including heart, eye, kidney, and nerve disease. Heart disease is linked to vascular dementia, caused by narrowed blood vessels in the brain. Shifting to a healthier diet can help. (Locked) More »

Urine testing no longer routine

Currently, most diseases that are detectable by urine tests can be diagnosed earlier with blood tests. Since blood testing is more common in doctors' offices now and urinalysis adds little new information, many doctors do not do it routinely. (Locked) More »