What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease in which glucose (sugar) builds up in the blood stream because the body does not produce or properly use insulin. Glucose comes from the food we eat and is needed by our bodies to produce energy. Insulin is made by cells in the pancreas and moves glucose from our bloodstream into our cells.

Type 1 is an autoimmune disorder that results in the lack of insulin production and Type 2 is a metabolic disorder that results in the body producing insulin, but not using it properly. Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy and is the result of improper use of the body’s insulin.

Type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented and cannot be reversed until a cure is found. In most cases, Type 2 diabetes can be prevented, delayed, and reversed with a healthy lifestyle that includes a healthy diet and exercise.

What is Pre-diabetes?

Pre-diabetes is a condition in which individuals have blood glucose or A1c levels higher than normal but not high enough to be classified as diabetes. People with pre-diabetes have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
Studies have shown that people with pre-diabetes who lose weight and increase their physical activity can prevent or delay type 2 diabetes and in some cases return their blood glucose levels to normal.

Types of Diabetes

Type 1 (previously called juvenile-onset diabetes)

The pancreas no longer produces insulin. People with Type 1 require insulin injections or infusions to live.

  • Also referred to as Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus (IDDM).
  • 5-10% of all diabetes cases are Type 1.
  • Exact cause is unknown, but it has been linked to genetics and environmental triggers.

Type 2 (previously called adult-onset diabetes)

The pancreas still produces insulin, but the body doesn’t process it properly.

  • Also referred to as Non-Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus (NIDDM).
  • 90% of all diabetes cases are type 2.
  • Is not a genetic disorder.
  • People with type 2 diabetes are usually over 45 years old, have a family history of Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, gestational diabetes (for women who had high blood sugar during pregnancy), and are generally overweight. However, more children are being diagnosed with Type 2, due to the increase in childhood obesity.


The body produces insulin, but the pregnancy results in insulin resistance.

  • Exact cause is unknown.
  • About 9% of pregnant women develop gestational diabetes.
  • Goes away after delivery, but mother has a 50% risk of developing Type 2 diabetes later in life.


Type 1: (can occur suddenly and be potentially life-threatening)

  • extreme thirst
  • increased appetite
  • frequent urination
  • little or no energy
  • rapid weight loss
  • nausea, vomiting, and/or abdominal pain

Type 2 (occurs more gradually, but could be dangerous)

  • thirstier than usual
  • frequent urination
  • always tired
  • weight gain or loss
  • frequent infections and slow healing
  • dry, itchy skin
  • blurry vision


(diagnosed in doctor’s office around the 24th week of gestation)



  • Hypoglycemia
  • Hyperglycemia
  • Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA) – Type 1 mostly
  • Hyperglycemic Hyperosmolar Non-Ketotic Syndrome (HHNS) -Type 2 mostly


  • Hypoglycemia
  • Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA) – Type 1 mostly
  • Hyperosmolar Non-Ketotic Syndrome (HHNS) – Type 2 mostly
  • Retinopathy, which can cause poor vision and blindness and other eye conditions, such as cataracts and glaucoma.
  • Nephropathy – kidney failure
  • Neuropathy – nerve damage, tingling in extremities (feet, legs)
  • Heart attacks and congestive heart failure
  • Amputation of extremities due to infections
  • High blood pressure and strokes

Common Terms

Fasting Glucose
Blood glucose level before eating a meal.
A lower than normal blood glucose reading (70 to 110 for people with diabetes).
A higher than normal blood glucose reading (140 to 170 for people with diabetes).
Oral Agents
Medications that stimulate the pancreas to produce more insulin or enable the body’s cells to use insulin more effectively (ex: Glucophage).
Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA)
A condition usually seen in patients with type 1 diabetes, occurs when the body has a severe deficiency of insulin. This causes a build up of glucose and acid in the blood which causes the person to become comatose. Symptoms of DKA include abdominal pain, confusion, dehydration, fatigue, and a fruity odor of the breath.
Hyperglycemic Hyperosmolar Non-Ketotic Syndrome (HHNS)
A condition characterized by high blood sugar levels (360mOsm/L) with enough insulin present and effective to allow some cellular glucose uptake and metabolism to prevent ketosis. Symptoms of HHNS include thirst, dry mouth, dizziness, and confusion.