Diabetes is a common condition that affects the way your body turns glucose from foods into fuel or energy. Approximately 29 million people in the United States have diabetes, and about another 86 million have a condition called pre-diabetes, which raises your blood glucose levels, making it easier to develop diabetes. These numbers reflect a jump from the 26 million Americans living with diabetes in 2010. These statistics are somewhat alarming, given the potential for additional health complications as a result of diabetes, including blindness, heart disease, or possible amputation of the lower extremities. Many Americans may not know that they have diabetes; however, there are some symptoms of type 1 and type 2 diabetes that you should be aware of if you think you may be at risk.
Types of Diabetes
Two common types of diabetes include type 1 and type 2, and both affect your body’s insulin production. Insulin helps move glucose — or sugar — from carbohydrates out of the bloodstream and into cells. This gives cells the energy to do their work. When your insulin is low or used incorrectly, the glucose stays in your blood, and your body doesn’t have enough energy to do its work.
Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is common in children and young adults, but you can develop the condition at any age. If you have type 1, your body doesn’t make insulin, so glucose stays in your blood rather than going to your cells. This is known as high blood sugar or hyperglycemia. Untreated type 1 diabetes can quickly lead to severe, life-threatening complications. Type 1 must be treated with insulin.
Type 2 Diabetes
Your pancreas still makes some insulin if you have type 2 diabetes, but the insulin does not work correctly or your cells cannot take in the glucose, known as insulin resistance. This also causes hyperglycemia and prevents energy from getting to the cells, which can eventually cause damage to your eyes, kidneys, nerves, and heart.
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form, affecting more than 90 percent of those who have the disease. Anyone can develop type 2 diabetes, but those with the highest risk include African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Pacific Islanders, or Native Americans; people who are overweight or have a family history of diabetes; and women who have had a baby weighing more than nine pounds at birth.
The symptoms of both type 1 and type 2 can include:
- Blurry vision
- Cuts or sores that don’t heal well
- Extreme tiredness
- Frequent urination
- Increased thirst
- Weight loss
Diabetes can be managed, but each person typically needs to practice self-management strategies specific to their own condition. If you think you may have this condition, talk to your doctor for more information on multidisciplinary care and education programs or ask about a referral to an endocrinologist who specializes in the treatment of diabetes.
If you are curious to learn more about diabetes, treatment, and prevention, talk to your doctor or visit the UPMC Centers for Diabetes Education and Support webpage.