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A NIDDK Overview of Diabetes

Type 2 Diabetes

The most common form of diabetes is type 2 diabetes (once known as noninsulin-dependent diabetes mellitus or NIDDM). About 90 to 95 percent of people with diabetes have type 2 diabetes. This form of diabetes usually develops in adults over the age of 40 and is most common among adults over age 55. About 80 percent of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight.

In type 2 diabetes, the pancreas usually produces insulin, but for some reason, the body cannot use the insulin effectively. The end result is the same as for type 1 diabetes -- an unhealthy buildup of glucose in the blood and an inability of the body to make efficient use of its main source of fuel.

The symptoms of type 2 diabetes develop gradually and are not as noticeable as in type 1 diabetes. Symptoms include feeling tired or ill, frequent urination (especially at night), unusual thirst, weight loss, blurred vision, frequent infections, and slow healing of sores.

Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes develops or is discovered during pregnancy. This type usually disappears when the pregnancy is over, but women who have had gestational diabetes have a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in their lives.

What Is the Scope and Impact of Diabetes?

Diabetes is widely recognized as one of the leading causes of death and disability in the United States. According to death certificate data, diabetes contributed to the deaths of more than 193,140 persons in 1996.

Diabetes is associated with long-term complications that affect almost every major part of the body. It contributes to blindness, heart disease, strokes, kidney failure, amputations, and nerve damage. Uncontrolled diabetes can complicate pregnancy, and birth defects are more common in babies born to women with diabetes.

Diabetes cost the United States $98 billion in 1997. Indirect costs, including disability payments, time lost from work, and premature death, totaled $54 billion; medical costs for diabetes care, including hospitalizations, medical care, and treatment supplies, totaled $44 billion.

Who Gets Diabetes?

Diabetes is not contagious. People cannot "catch" it from each other. However, certain factors can increase one's risk of developing diabetes. People who have family members with diabetes (especially type 2 diabetes ), who are overweight, or who are African American, Hispanic, or Native American are all at greater risk of developing diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes occurs equally among males and females, but is more common in whites than in nonwhites. Data from the World Health Organization's Multinational Project for Childhood Diabetes indicate that type 1 diabetes is rare in most Asian, African, and American Indian populations. On the other hand, some northern European countries, including Finland and Sweden, have high rates of type 1 diabetes. The reasons for these differences are not known.

Type 2 diabetes is more common in older people, especially older women who are overweight, and occurs more often among African Americans, Hispanics, and American Indians. Compared with non-Hispanic whites, diabetes rates are about 60 percent higher in African Americans and 110 to 120 percent higher in Mexican Americans and Puerto Ricans. American Indians have the highest rates of diabetes in the world. Among Pima Indians living in the United States, for example, half of all adults have type 2 diabetes. The prevalence of diabetes is likely to increase because older people, Hispanics, and other minority groups make up the fastest growing segments of the U.S. population.

WebMD Public Information from the U.S. National Institutes of Health

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If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

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