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Diabetes is a disease in which your blood glucose (blood sugar) is too high. Glucose comes from the foods you eat. Insulin is a hormone that helps the glucose get into your cells, where it is broken down to give the cells energy. If your body cannot make insulin, or your cells no longer respond to insulin, glucose can't get into your cells. Instead, it stays in your blood. Your blood glucose level then gets too high, causing diabetes.
There are several types of diabetes:
- Type 1 diabetes is when your body can no longer make insulin. This occurs because the body's defense system, called the immune system, attacks and kills the cells that make insulin. Type 1 diabetes is usually first diagnosed in children, teenagers, or young adults.
- Type 2 diabetes develops when the cells of your body stop responding to insulin as they should. In time, the cells that produce insulin lose their ability to do so. More than 9 out of 10 people diagnosed with diabetes have type 2 diabetes. It can develop at any age, even childhood. Being overweight and physically inactive puts you at greater risk of getting type 2 diabetes.
- Gestational diabetes is too high blood glucose during pregnancy. This form of diabetes usually goes away after delivery. But a woman who has had it is more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life.
Over time, diabetes can damage your eyes, kidneys, nerves, gums, and teeth. Diabetes can also cause heart disease, stroke, and even the need to remove a limb.
If you have diabetes, you know that controlling blood glucose levels is an important part of your daily routine. Being physically active, maintaining a healthy weight, and sticking to the meal plan prescribed by your doctor can help control your diabetes. You should also check your glucose level regularly and take medicine if prescribed.
Taking care of your emotional health also is important for people with diabetes, who have a higher risk of depression. Keeping up with the routine to control diabetes can be stressful at times. And people who have diabetes-related complications such as vision loss or amputation must change their lifestyle in significant ways. Turn to family members and friends for support. And, share your feelings with your doctor. Diabetes that is poorly controlled also can cause some of the symptoms of depression.
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More information on Diabetes
Read more from womenshealth.gov
- Diabetes Fact Sheet - This fact sheet discusses the risk factors for and signs, symptoms, and treatments of diabetes in women.
Explore other publications and websites
- Diabetes and Pregnancy (Copyright © American Diabetes Association) - The key to a healthy pregnancy for a woman with diabetes is keeping blood sugar in the target range — both before and during her pregnancy. To do this, you need a diabetes treatment plan that keeps meals, exercise, and insulin in balance. This resource gives women with diabetes the information they need to maintain their health throughout pregnancy.
- Diabetic Eye Disease: Facts About Diabetic Retinopathy - This booklet provides information about diabetic retinopathy and answers questions about the causes and symptoms of this progressive eye disease. Diagnosis and types of treatment are also described.
- Financial Help for Diabetes Care - This publication reviews the two government-funded health insurance programs, Medicare and Medicaid, as well as other health care services available for people with diabetes. It lists organizations that address financial concerns about prescription drugs and medical supplies, prosthetic care, and dialysis and kidney transplantation. It also provides suggestions for finding local resources.
- If you have diabetes, you are at a high risk for heart attack and stroke - This brochure explains the link between diabetes and heart disease and encourages people with diabetes to take action to control the ABCs of diabetes: A1C (blood sugar level), blood pressure, and cholesterol.
- Investment in Research Saves Live and Money: Facts About Diabetes (Copyright © Research!America) - Diabetes is a growing health concern in the United States. This fact sheet provides statistics about diabetes and explains how investing in research now can save lives and money later.
- The Power to Control Diabetes Is in Your Hands — Community Outreach Kit - This brochure provides information for older adults with diabetes on how to manage their disease, including the importance of checking blood glucose levels, how to manage the ABCs of diabetes, and how to access Medicare benefits.
- The Reference Guide of Physical Activity Programs for Older Adults: A Resource for Planning Interventions - This reference guide describes multiple programs for promoting physical activity among older adults in the United States, especially those individuals with diabetes.
- What I Need to Know About Eating and Diabetes - This publication reviews diabetes nutrition basics, including what, when, and how much a person with diabetes should eat. It discusses healthier ways to buy, cook, and eat foods to achieve good blood glucose control.
- What I Need to Know About Gestational Diabetes - This booklet defines gestational diabetes, explains its causes and diagnosis, and outlines treatments. It also includes strategies for preventing or delaying type 2 diabetes later in life.
- Your Guide to Diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2 - This booklet helps people with diabetes manage the disease through advice on eating healthy, checking blood glucose levels, and getting regular medical care.
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Content last updated: September 22, 2009.
Resources last updated: September 25, 2013.
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