Diabetes has no cure. Treatment for diabetes includes, diet, weight control, exercise and medication.

To understand diabetes, one must appreciate the importance of insulin to the body. Insulin is a hormone that converts sugar, starches and other food into energy. Since sugar is the basic fuel for cells in the body, and because insulin transports the sugar from the blood into the cells, everyone needs insulin to survive.

Diabetes is a disease in which the body either:

  1. Doesn’t produce insulin (Type 1 diabetes, previously known as juvenile diabetes)

  2. Doesn’t properly use insulin (Type 2 diabetes, previously known as adult-onset or insulin-dependent diabetes)

The exact cause of diabetes is not known. One's genetics and lifestyle -- such as obesity and lack of exercise -- play roles.

A third type of diabetes is gestational diabetes, which affects approximately 3 - 8 percent of pregnancies in the United States each year. Like types 1 and 2, the cause of gestational diabetes is unknown, but it is believed that hormones occurring in the mother during pregnancy block the action of insulin in her body. This condition affects both the mother and baby, so early detection and treatment are urged.

Prediabetes is a condition that occurs when a person's blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not high enough for a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. Thirty-seven percent of U.S. adults age 20 and older have prediabetes

Diagnosing Diabetes and Prediabetes

Diabetes affects 29.1 million people (9.3% of the U.S. population). While an estimated 21 million have been diagnosed, 8.1 million people are unaware they have the disease. To learn more, see Diagnosing Diabetes.

Symptoms include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Frequent urination
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Slow-healing wounds
  • Numbness or tingling in the toes or feet

The American Diabetes Association has developed clinical practice guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of prediabetes and diabetes. 

Diagnosing Prediabetes
Fasting blood sugar level: 100 mg/dL to 125 mg/dL
HbA1c (3-month blood sugar average): 5.7 percent to 6.4 percent
Diagnosing Diabetes
Fasting blood sugars on two occasions are: Greater than or equal to 126 mg/dL
Random blood sugar is: Greater than or equal to 200 mg/dL with symptoms
HbA1c (3-month blood sugar average): Greater than or equal to 6.5%

Diabetes is associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke; blindness; kidney disease; amputations; dental disease; complications of pregnancy; sexual dysfunction; and nervous system damage, including impaired sensation or pain in the feet or hands.

Need a diabetes doctor? Call 314.747.9355 or toll-free 877.747.9355.