Skip to content

    Diabetes Health Center

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    A NIDDK Overview of Diabetes

    Almost every one of us knows someone who has diabetes. An estimated 16 million people in the United States have diabetes mellitus -- a serious, lifelong condition. About half of these people do not know they have diabetes and are not under care for the disorder. Each year, about 798,000 people are diagnosed with diabetes.

    Although diabetes occurs most often in older adults, it is one of the most common chronic disorders in children in the United States. About 123,000 children and teenagers age 19 and younger have diabetes.

    Prevalence of Diagnosed Diabetes

    What Is Diabetes?

    Diabetes is a disorder of metabolism -- the way our bodies use digested food for growth and energy. Most of the food we eat is broken down by the digestive juices into a simple sugar called glucose. Glucose is the main source of fuel for the body.

    After digestion, the glucose passes into our bloodstream where it is available for body cells to use for growth and energy. For the glucose to get into the cells, insulin must be present. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas, a large gland behind the stomach.

    When we eat, the pancreas is supposed to automatically produce the right amount of insulin to move the glucose from our blood into our cells. In people with diabetes, however, the pancreas either produces little or no insulin, or the body cells do not respond to the insulin that is produced. As a result, glucose builds up in the blood, overflows into the urine, and passes out of the body. Thus, the body loses its main source of fuel even though the blood contains large amounts of glucose.

    What Are the Different Types of Diabetes?

    The three main types of diabetes are:

    Type 1 Diabetes

    Type 1 diabetes (once known as insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus or juvenile diabetes) is considered an autoimmune disease. An autoimmune disease results when the body's system for fighting infection (the immune system) turns against a part of the body. In diabetes, the immune system attacks the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas and destroys them. The pancreas then produces little or no insulin.

    1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

    Today on WebMD

    Diabetic tools
    Symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and more.
    woman flexing muscles
    10 strength training exercises.
     
    Blood sugar test
    12 practical tips.
    Tom Hanks
    Stars living with type 1 or type 2.
     
    kenneth fujioka, md
    Video
    Can Vinegar Treat Diabetes
    Article
     
    Middle aged person
    Tool
    jennie brand miller
    Video
     

    Prediabetes How to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
    Article
    type 2 diabetes
    Slideshow
     
    food fitness planner
    Tool
    feet
    Slideshow