Diabetes: What You Need to Know

Diabetes is a condition that demands your utmost attention. Affecting millions of individuals across the globe, understanding the ins and outs of diabetes is the first step towards effectively managing and potentially even preventing this pervasive disease.

This comprehensive guide will unravel the mystery of diabetes and shed light on its different types: Type 1, Type 2, Prediabetes, and Gestational diabetes.

Key Takeaway

The ultimate takeaway from this article is understanding what diabetes is, recognizing its symptoms, knowing its causes, the different treatments available, potential complications, and finally, when to see a doctor.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes What You Need to Know

The first question you might have is, “What exactly is diabetes?”

Diabetes is a chronic (long-lasting) condition that affects your body’s ability to convert food into energy.

To better understand this, you need to consider the role of a hormone called insulin, which is produced in your pancreas.

Insulin acts as a key that unlocks your body’s cells, allowing glucose (sugar) from the food you eat to enter and be used for energy. But when you have diabetes, this system doesn’t work the way it should.

Your body either doesn’t produce enough insulin or can’t use the insulin it does produce effectively, which leads to high levels of sugar in your bloodstream.

There are different types of diabetes, each with its distinct features. Understanding these types can help you be more aware and proactive in managing your health.

Type 1 Diabetes

When you hear “Type 1 diabetes,” think “autoimmune.” This means that your body’s defense system (immune system) accidentally attacks and destroys the cells in your pancreas that make insulin.

This leaves the body with little to no insulin, leading to a buildup of sugars in the bloodstream.

Type 1 diabetes is often found in kids and young people, but it can show up at any age.

Those with Type 1 diabetes need to take insulin every day to stay alive, as their bodies can’t produce it on their own.

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, begins with insulin resistance. Your body still produces insulin, but your cells become resistant to its effects.

In response, your pancreas makes more insulin to compensate. Over time, however, it can’t keep up and can’t produce enough insulin to keep your blood glucose levels in the normal range.

Type 2 diabetes can commonly occur at any age, but it’s more common in middle-aged and older people.

It’s the most common type of diabetes and often develops over many years, typically beginning as prediabetes.


Prediabetes is exactly what it sounds like – a state that precedes diabetes. Here, the sugar levels in your blood are higher than normal but not high enough to say you have Type 2 diabetes.

Prediabetes is essentially a wake-up call, indicating that you’re on the path to diabetes if you don’t make lifestyle changes.

Prediabetes can go unnoticed, as it often presents with no clear symptoms. Yet without intervention, it’s likely to become type 2 diabetes within ten years or less.

It’s important to note that prediabetes doesn’t always lead to Type 2 diabetes. It’s potentially possible to prevent or delay Type 2 diabetes by making changes to your lifestyle.

Gestational Diabetes

Now, you might wonder what “gestational” means. This term relates to pregnancy.

Gestational diabetes, therefore, develops during pregnancy. Like other types of diabetes, gestational diabetes changes how your body’s cells use sugar or glucose for energy.

Gestational diabetes doesn’t always present with clear symptoms and is usually diagnosed during a routine screening in pregnancy.

The condition can increase the risk of certain complications during pregnancy and delivery. It’s important to monitor and manage gestational diabetes to ensure the health of both the mother and baby.

Now that you understand the different types of diabetes, it’s time to dive into the symptoms that you should be aware of for each type. Recognizing these symptoms early can lead to quicker diagnosis and treatment.


Each type of diabetes can present with a slightly different set of symptoms, although some signs are common across all types.

Type 1 Symptoms

Type 1 diabetes often develops rapidly over the course of weeks or even days. Common symptoms include:

  • Excessive thirst and hunger
  • Frequent urination
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Blurred vision
  • Irritability and mood changes

Type 2 Symptoms

Type 2 diabetes develops more gradually, and its symptoms can be so mild that they go unnoticed. Look out for:

  • Increased thirst and frequent urination
  • Increased hunger
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Slow-healing sores or frequent infections
  • Blurred vision
  • Areas of darkened skin around your armpits and neck
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet

If you notice these symptoms, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional immediately.

Prediabetes Symptoms

Prediabetes usually doesn’t present with clear symptoms.

However, a blood sugar level higher than normal yet not high enough for a diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes — known as prediabetes — can lead to subtle signs such as:

  • Darkened areas of skin: This condition, known as acanthosis nigricans, often appears on the neck, armpits, elbows, knees, and knuckles.
  • Increased thirst, hunger, and urination: Although not as pronounced as in full-blown diabetes, these symptoms may still be present.

Gestational Diabetes Symptoms

Gestational diabetes typically doesn’t present with noticeable symptoms and is usually detected during routine pregnancy screening tests. However, excessive thirst and increased urination may sometimes be observed.


The exact cause of diabetes can vary depending on the type.

Type 1

The actual cause of Type 1 diabetes isn’t fully understood. It’s thought to be an autoimmune condition, where the body’s defense system attacks its own insulin-producing cells.

It’s also believed that some genetic and environmental factors could contribute to the onset of Type 1 diabetes.

Type 2

In Type 2 diabetes and prediabetes, the cells in your muscles, fat, and liver start resisting insulin. They don’t use insulin effectively and, thus, can’t absorb glucose from your bloodstream.

This triggers your pancreas to make more insulin. Over time, the extra work to produce insulin wears out your pancreas, leading to insulin deficiency.

A variety of factors increase the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and prediabetes, including being overweight or obese, having a family history of diabetes, lack of physical activity, and certain health conditions, like high blood pressure and abnormal cholesterol levels.


Effective treatment can help manage diabetes and prevent complications. The choice of treatment varies depending on the type of diabetes.

Type 1

The main treatment for Type 1 diabetes is insulin because the body can’t make its own insulin, people with Type 1 diabetes need to take it every day.

This can be done with shots or a special device called an insulin pump. It’s also crucial to balance insulin doses with food and physical activity.

Type 2

For Type 2 diabetes, the aim of treatment is to get blood sugar levels back to normal.

This can often be done by changing how you live, like eating healthy, exercising regularly, and losing weight. If these changes don’t work well enough, oral medications or insulin might be needed.

Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes is usually managed through dietary changes and exercise, though some women might need medication. Monitoring blood sugar levels is also crucial.

Remember, each person is unique, and so is their treatment plan. It’s important to work with your healthcare provider to create a plan that suits your lifestyle and personal needs.


Diabetes, if not managed well, can lead to various complications over time. These can affect various parts of the body, including the heart, kidneys, nerves, and eyes.

Some of the potential complications include:

Heart and Blood Vessel Problems

Having diabetes greatly increases your chances of getting heart disease, having a stroke, and getting high blood pressure.

The extra sugar in your blood can hurt your blood vessels, which can make your arteries hard and can cause heart attack, chest pain, or stroke.

Many people with diabetes also have high blood pressure, which puts more stress on the heart.

Nerve Damage

Diabetes can also cause nerve damage. The extra sugar can hurt the tiny blood vessels that keep your nerves healthy.

This can cause problems like pain and numbness in your hands and feet, as well as problems with your digestion, urination, heart, and blood vessels.

Kidney Damage

Diabetes can hurt your kidneys, which can result in kidney disease or even kidney failure. Damaged kidneys have a hard time cleaning your blood.

This can cause you to hold onto too much water and salt, which can make you gain weight and have swollen ankles. You might also have protein in your pee, which can be a sign your kidneys are hurt.

Eye Problems

Diabetes can cause serious problems with your eyes, including damaging the tiny blood vessels inside your retina.

Over time, high blood sugar can cause these vessels to swell and leak fluid or even close off completely.

Sometimes, new blood vessels can grow on the retina, which can cause big vision problems, including blindness.

Foot Damage

Nerve damage, particularly in the feet, or poor blood flow to the feet because of diabetes can lead to serious foot problems.

Cuts and blisters can turn into serious infections, which may not heal well. In some cases, a toe, foot, or leg might need to be amputated.

Skin and Mouth Problems

People with diabetes are more likely to get skin infections, including bacterial and fungal infections.

Gum infections are also more common in people with diabetes because there’s not enough blood going to the gums.

Weak Bones

Diabetes can make your bones weaker than normal, raising your chances of getting osteoporosis, an ailment that makes bones weak and more likely to break.

Hearing Problems

People with diabetes are more likely to have hearing problems, maybe because the disease can hurt the small blood vessels and nerves in the inner ear.

Alzheimer’s disease

Type 2 diabetes can raise your chances of getting Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. If your blood sugar isn’t controlled well, your risk seems to be higher. But scientists aren’t sure exactly how these conditions are connected.

Mental Health

Lastly, it’s important to note that taking care of diabetes can be stressful. People with diabetes are more likely to get depression and feel stressed out about their diabetes. This can affect their quality of life and how well they take care of their diabetes.

Remember, these problems don’t have to happen. By controlling your blood sugar levels, living a healthy lifestyle, and getting regular check-ups, you can help prevent or manage these problems.

When Should You See a Doctor?

The start of Type 1 diabetes tends to be sudden and dramatic.

If you or your child start peeing a lot, feeling very thirsty, losing weight for no reason, or feeling very tired, you should see a doctor right away. These symptoms can come on suddenly and be very strong.

Symptoms of Type 2 diabetes usually start slowly, over many years, and might be so mild that you don’t notice them. Lots of people with prediabetes don’t have any symptoms either.

If you’re over 45, have someone in your family with diabetes, or are overweight, make sure you get regular check-ups.

Also, if you’re pregnant and start feeling very thirsty and peeing a lot, make sure to talk to a doctor.

In closing, remember: Understanding diabetes is a very important step in managing it. The more you know, the better you can take care of yourself.

Similar Posts