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What is Diabetes?

Type 2 Diabetes

What is diabetes mellitus type 2? Diabetes (deye-ah-BEE-teez) mellitus is a disease affecting how your body makes insulin and how it uses glucose (sugar). Insulin is a hormone that helps your body use sugar by allowing the sugar to enter body cells. The four types of diabetes are type 1, type 2, other specific types, and gestational diabetes. With type 2 diabetes, your body has trouble using insulin or is not making enough insulin. It usually begins during puberty but can also start even in younger children.

What causes diabetes mellitus type 2? No one knows for sure what causes type 2 diabetes. Normally, when blood glucose level increases, the pancreas (an organ behind the stomach) makes insulin to lower blood glucose levels. In type 2 diabetes, you may have insulin resistance. In insulin resistance, your pancreas keeps making insulin but your body cannot use the insulin correctly. After many years, your pancreas may just stop working and stop making insulin. When this happens, sugar will build up even more in your body.

Picture of the location of the pancreas

Source: Thomson MICROMEDEX. 2008

Type 1 Diabetes

What is diabetes mellitus type 1? Diabetes mellitus is a disease affecting how your body makes insulin and how it uses glucose (sugar). Insulin is a hormone that helps your body use sugar by allowing the sugar to enter body cells. The four types of diabetes are type 1, type 2, other specific types, and gestational diabetes. With type 1 diabetes, your body makes little or no insulin, causing high blood sugar levels. Type 1 diabetes is also called insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM) or juvenile-onset diabetes. It is more common in children or young adults, but it can occur at any age.

What causes diabetes mellitus type 1? Type 1 diabetes may be an autoimmune disease. An autoimmune disease is a condition where your body's immune system (defense system) attacks your body's cells. Normally, when blood glucose level increases, the pancreas (an organ that lies behind the stomach) makes insulin. In type 1 diabetes, the cells in the pancreas that make insulin are destroyed.

Picture of a normal digestive system

Source: Thomson MICROMEDEX. 2008

Gestational Diabetes

What is gestational diabetes? Gestational (jes-TAY-shun-al) diabetes (deye-ah-BEE-teez) is also called gestational diabetes mellitus or GDM. It is a form of diabetes that may develop during pregnancy, usually in the second or third trimester. GDM happens when the pregnant woman’s body cannot make enough insulin. Insulin helps your body use glucose (sugar). Decreased amount of insulin results in high blood sugar levels in the body.

What causes gestational diabetes? No one knows for sure what causes GDM. It is believed that the hormones made by the placenta block the effects of insulin. The placenta is the tissue in your uterus (womb) that connects the pregnant woman to her baby. The blocking effect on insulin increases as the placenta grows and more of these hormones are produced. Normally, the body makes more insulin to take care of this problem. GDM results when not enough insulin is made.

Who is at risk of having gestational diabetes?
One or more of the following factors may increase your risk of having GDM:

Having a close family member who has diabetes.
Having a history of high blood sugar.
Having a weight more than your caregiver advised before and during pregnancy.
Having given birth to a previous baby weighing more than 9 pounds, 14 ounces.
Having glycosuria (sugar in your urine).
Women who are black, Hispanic or American Indians have an increased risk of GDM

Source: Thomson MICROMEDEX. 2008

What are the symptoms I should look for?

There are many symptoms that may lead to a diabetes diagnosis.  If you experience and of the following symptoms, please contact your healthcare provider.

News PDF Icon Signs and Symptoms of Diabetes - 2 page PDF format (1,433 KB)

Where can I find support and more information? 

Having diabetes is a life-changing disease for you and your family. Accepting that you have diabetes may be hard. Your doctor may recommend that you meet with a diabetes educator and nutritionsit to work towards a healthier lifestyle.  The Center for Nutrition and Diabetes Management will work with you and the rest of your healthcare team to acheieve your goals.  For more information about our programs or to schedule and appointment, please call our office at (908) 237-6920.