Diabetes is a chronic (long term) condition marked by abnormally high levels of sugar (glucose) in the blood. People with diabetes either do not produce enough insulin, a hormone that is needed to convert sugar, starches, and other food into energy needed for daily life, or cannot use the insulin that their bodies produce. As a result, glucose builds up in the bloodstream. If left untreated, diabetes can lead to blindness, kidney disease, nerve disease, heart disease, and stroke.

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), diabetes affects 25.8 million Americans.

While an estimated 18.8 million have been diagnosed with diabetes (both type 1 and type 2), unfortunately, 7 million people (or nearly one third) are unaware that they have type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes is widely recognized as one of the leading causes of death and disability in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recognize diabetes as the 7th leading cause of death in the U.S.

There are 2 major types of diabetes:

Pre-diabetes occurs in those individuals with blood glucose levels that are higher than normal but not high enough for a diabetes diagnosis. This condition raises the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, stroke, and heart disease. In fact, people with diabetes are 2 to 4 times more likely than non-diabetic people to develop heart disease. Pre-diabetes is also called impaired fasting glucose (IFG), impaired glucose tolerance (IGT), or insulin resistance. Some people have both IFG and IGT. In IFG, glucose levels are a little high several hours after a person eats. In IGT, glucose levels are a little higher than normal right after eating. Pre-diabetes is becoming more common in the U.S., according to estimates provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Many individuals with pre-diabetes go on to develop type 2 diabetes within 10 years.

Gestational diabetes is high blood glucose that develops at any time during pregnancy in a woman who does not have diabetes. Four percent of all pregnant women develop gestational diabetes. Although it usually disappears after delivery, the mother is at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

Diabetes may also be associated with genetic syndromes, surgery, drugs, malnutrition, infections, and other illnesses.

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Review Date: 12/19/2015  

Reviewed By: Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD, Solutions Acupuncture, a private practice specializing in complementary and alternative medicine, Phoenix, AZ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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