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Diabetes "Basics" Diabetes means that your blood glucose (often called blood sugar) is too high. Your blood always has some glucose in it because your body needs glucose for energy to keep you going. But too much glucose in the blood isn't good for your health.

Glucose comes from the food you eat and is also made in your liver and muscles. Your blood carries the glucose to all the cells in your body. Insulin is a chemical (a hormone) made in a part of the body called the pancreas. The pancreas releases insulin into the blood. Insulin helps the glucose from food get into your cells. If your body doesn't make enough insulin or if the insulin doesn't work the way it should, glucose can't get into your cells. It stays in your blood instead. Your blood glucose level then gets too high, causing you to have diabetes.

The signs of diabetes are:
being very thirsty
urinating often
feeling very hungry or tired
losing weight without trying
having sores that heal slowly
having dry, itchy skin
losing the feeling in your feet or having tingling in your feet
having blurry eyesight
You may have had one or more of these signs before you found out you had diabetes. Or you may have had no signs at all.

People can get diabetes at any age. There are three main kinds.

Type 1 diabetes, formerly called juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes, is usually first diagnosed in children, teenagers, or young adults. In this form of diabetes, the beta cells of the pancreas no longer make insulin because the body's immune system has attacked and destroyed them. Treatment for type 1 diabetes includes taking insulin shots or using an insulin pump, making wise food choices, exercising regularly, taking aspirin daily, and controlling blood pressure and cholesterol.

Type 2 diabetes, formerly called adult-onset diabetes or non-insulin-dependent diabetes, is the most common form of diabetes. People can develop type 2 diabetes at any age -- even during childhood. In type 2 diabetes, the pancreas does not make enough insulin, and the fat, muscle, or liver cells do not use it properly. [See "What Is Insulin Resistance," below.] Being overweight can increase the chances of developing type 2 diabetes. Treatment includes using diabetes medicines, making wise food choices, exercising regularly, taking aspirin daily, and controlling blood pressure and cholesterol. For a complete list of type 2 symptoms, click here.

Gestational Diabetes

Some women develop gestational diabetes during the late stages of pregnancy. Although this form of diabetes usually goes away after the baby is born, a woman who has had it is more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life. Gestational diabetes is caused by the hormones of pregnancy or a shortage of insulin.

Insulin Resistance and What It Means When You Have Type 2 Diabetes

A key development in the treatment of diabetes has been a growing understanding of one of its major underlying causes -- insulin resistance. This development has resulted in medical treatment options that were not available even a few years ago.

What Is Insulin Resistance? Type 2 diabetes is a chronic disease characterized by high sugar levels and the body's inability to use and/or produce insulin. Sometimes the pancreas does not produce enough insulin. Other times, the cells throughout the body become resistant to the insulin produced by the pancreas, and it is much more difficult for the sugar to enter the cells. This is known as insulin resistance. To see how insulin resistance works in the body, click here. Many type 2 diabetes medicines primarily work by increasing insulin production in the pancreas, or by decreasing glucose output through the liver. Learn more information about insulin resistance.

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