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
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
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
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
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.