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Understanding Diabetes

According to the CDC, more than 34 million people in the U.S. live with diabetes. Another 88 million are at risk of developing the disease.

Diabetes occurs when your body has a shortage of insulin or when your body loses its ability to use insulin or both. Insulin lowers your blood sugar and converts glucose (sugar) to energy. Too much sugar in the blood causes damage to the body. People with diabetes have a higher incidence of blindness, kidney failure, heart disease, stroke and amputation of lower limbs.

The basics about diabetes

When you eat a meal, food breaks down into sugar or glucose. This glucose goes into your bloodstream and the blood glucose then rises. The body produces insulin, which takes the glucose into the body cells to be used for energy. When you have diabetes, your body cannot produce enough insulin or can't use the insulin it does produce in the correct way.

Find out your risk factors for diabetes

Early detection and treatment of diabetes can decrease the risk of developing complications.

Common symptoms of diabetes

  • Urinating often
  • Feeling very thirsty
  • Feeling very hungry - even though you are eating
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Blurry vision
  • Cuts/bruises that are slow to heal
  • Weight loss - even though you are eating more (Type 1)
  • Tingling, pain or numbness in the hands/feet (Type 2)

Your healthcare provider uses a series of tests to screen for diabetes.

  • Blood glucose
  • A1C
  • Glucose tolerance

Types of diabetes

We treat diabetes differently, based on how your body produces or uses insulin.

Type 1
With Type 1 diabetes, the body stops making insulin because the body's immune system destroyed the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. People with Type 1 diabetes require insulin injections every day so their bodies can use the food they have eaten. Type 1 can occur at any age, but occurs generally in children and young adults. In most cases, the factors that lead to Type 1 diabetes are a family history and immune system problems.

Type 2
Being overweight or obese can increase a person's risk for developing type 2 diabetes and is the most common form of diabetes. It appears mostly in adults, but is developing more in children and teens. With Type 2 diabetes, the body makes insulin – just not enough--or does not use it correctly. According to the CDC, people at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes usually have some or all of these traits:

  • Have prediabetes
  • Are overweight
  • Are 45 years or older
  • Have a parent, brother, or sister with type 2 diabetes
  • Are physically active less than 3 times a week
  • Have ever had gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) or given birth to a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds
  • Are African American, Hispanic/Latino American, American Indian, or Alaska Native (some Pacific Islanders and Asian Americans are also at higher risk)
  • If you have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease you may also be at risk for type 2 diabetes

Gestational diabetes

The hormonal changes of pregnancy may demand more insulin than the body can make and the blood glucose levels go too high. Gestational diabetes is one of the most common problems in pregnancy. After the birth of the baby, blood glucose levels return to normal in most women. Having gestational diabetes increases the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.


People with blood glucose levels that are higher than normal but not yet in the range for diagnosis of diabetes have pre-diabetes. Doctors sometimes call this condition impaired fasting glucose or impaired glucose tolerance, depending on the test used to diagnose it. Pre-diabetes is becoming more common in the United States.

If you have pre-diabetes, you have a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. A diagnosis of pre-diabetes alerts you that you may need to get started with some lifestyle changes. You may delay the onset of diabetes and decrease your risk of heart disease by eating healthy meals, maintaining an exercise plan and losing weight.

Insulin resistance

Insulin resistance is a disease that affects how the body uses both insulin and sugar for energy. It can lead to a variety of serious health disorders, including diabetes.

Metabolic syndrome

A diagnosis of metabolic syndrome means the body’s metabolism is affected by several disorders at the same time, such as obesity (especially with abdominal obesity), high blood pressure, a fasting blood glucose over 100 and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels. Because of the components of metabolic syndrome, it can lead to increased risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.

We can help

Our individualized diabetes education program is designed to help newly diagnosed patients or those living with diabetes who need assistance. For more information about our diabetes education program, call (574) 537-1221.

Living Well with Diabetes

Your knowledge of nutrition, activity, monitoring and medication can help you manage your diabetes and enjoy life to its fullest.

Understanding your condition

We understand how difficult it can be to manage your blood glucose. Many factors influence your levels, such as food choice and quantity, timing when you take your diabetes medications, stress, illnesses, your weight and your body's resistance to insulin. To help maintain healthy blood glucose, our educators teach you how to live with diabetes, whether you’re at home, school, work or out in the community.

  • Understand the basics of diabetes
  • Manage diabetes through activity, food planning and medications
  • Monitor the effectiveness of your management plan
  • Prevent, recognize and treat emergency situations
  • Manage diabetes during minor illness and know when to call your healthcare provider
  • Decrease the risk of developing complications, such as kidney disease, eye disease, nerve damage or cardiovascular disease
  • Plan meals and food intake
  • Care for your feet

Download the Living With Diabetes Booklet

Are you a new or existing patient?