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About Diabetes

Diabetes mellitus, or simply diabetes, is a chronic metabolic disease that occurs when the pancreas is no longer able to make insulin, or when the body cannot make good use of the insulin it produces. Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood glucose levels, and is required to convert sugar, starches, and other food into energy needed for daily life.

Diabetes is generally classified into two types:

  • Type 1 diabetes is characterized by severely diminished insulin production. Type 1 diabetes may affect people of any age, but usually develops in children or young adults. People with this form of diabetes need injections of insulin every day in order to control the levels of glucose in their blood.
  • Type 2 diabetes is characterized by moderately diminished insulin production in conjunction with insulin resistance (insensitivity of the tissues of the body to insulin). The diagnosis of type 2 diabetes can occur at any age. This form of diabetes may remain undetected for many years and the diagnosis is often made when a complication appears or a routine blood or urine glucose test is performed. It is often, but not always, associated with overweight or obesity, which itself can cause insulin resistance and lead to high blood glucose levels. People with type 2 diabetes are often initially able to manage their condition through exercise and diet. However, over time, most type 2 diabetes patients will require oral drugs and or insulin.

Diabetes can seriously impair overall quality of life and may lead to multiple complications, including heart disease, stroke, and kidney failure. There are approximately 1.7 million people with type 1 diabetes and about 1.6 million adults with the disease in the U.S., a population that has grown approximately 3.5% per year over the last 5 years. About three quarters of the population has an A1C greater than the ADA target of 7%. The type 2 diabetes population currently consists of more than 30 million people in the U.S. and more than 400 million worldwide.