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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.

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Content last updated: September 22, 2009.

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