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What is diabetes?

According to the National Institute on Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), Diabetes occurs when your blood sugar, also known as blood glucose, is too high. Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas that helps glucose from the food you eat get into your cells to be used for energy. In people with diabetes, their body does not make enough or any insulin or does not use insulin well. Then, the glucose stays in their blood and does not reach their cells. As time passes, health problems can be caused by having too much sugar in your blood. Diabetes has no cure. However, steps can be taken to manage it and stay healthy.

Diabetes is a group of diseases that include:

  • Type 1 diabetes occurs when your body does not make insulin. Your immune system attacks and destroys the cells in your pancreas that make insulin. People with Type 1 diabetes have to take insulin every day to stay alive. This type of diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults; however, it can occur at any age.
  • Type 2 diabetes occurs when your body does not make or use insulin well. Although this type of diabetes is diagnosed most often in middle-aged or older people, it can occur in children. It is the most common type of diabetes.
  • Gestational diabetes occurs in some women when they are pregnant. The majority of the time, this type of diabetes goes away after the baby is born. Women who have had gestational diabetes have a greater chance of developing Type 2 diabetes as they age. There are times that, when diabetes is diagnosed during pregnancy, it is Type 2 diabetes.
  • There are less common types of diabetes such as monogenic diabetes and cystic fibrosis-related diabetes.

If you would like to learn more about diabetes, please check out these web pages from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the American Diabetes Association, which also provides community resources, food and fitness resources, resources for living with diabetes, advocacy resources, and information on research and practice. Check out these articles from the NIDILRR community on diabetes and disabilities. And check out the research being done by these NIDILRR grantees. If you would like more information on diabetes or are looking for diabetes resources in your area, contact NARIC’s information specialists by calling 800/346-2742, by email, or through our chat.