(This information is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a doctor or a recommendation for any particular treatment plan. Like any printed material, it may become out of date over time. It is important that you rely on the advice of a doctor for your specific condition.)


The body is made of millions of cells that need energy to function. The food you eat is turned into sugar, called glucose. Sugar is carried to the cells through the blood stream. It is one of many substances needed by cells to make energy. For glucose to enter the cells, 2 conditions must be present. First, the cells must have enough “doors,” called receptors. Second, a substance called insulin is needed to “unlock the receptors.” Once these two conditions are met, glucose enters the cell and is used by the cell to make energy. Without energy, all cells die. Insulin is a chemical hormone, which is manufactured in the pancreas. Insulin levels in the blood vary with the amount of glucose present in the blood. Diabetes is a disease that makes it difficult for the cells of the body to get the glucose they need to make energy.

Diabetes can make it difficult for the cells of the body to receive adequate amounts of glucose in two ways. First, the pancreas may not make insulin. Since insulin is needed to “unlock the receptors,” glucose cannot enter the cells. Therefore, glucose levels increase in the blood. This is known as Type 1 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes occurs when insulin is present in enough quantities, but there is a decrease in the number of receptors on the cells to allow glucose to enter. Even though insulin is present, it cannot be used effectively, a situation called “Insulin Resistance” which results in high levels of glucose in the blood. Type 2 diabetes is more common than Type 1. The exact causes of diabetes are unknown. However, it tends to run in families. Diabetes is not a contagious disease.

The most reliable test results are obtained when the sugar level in the blood is checked before any food or liquid is ingested. This is known as a fasting blood sugar. A range for a normal fasting blood sugar is between 60 and 99 mg/dL. Levels between 100 and 125 mg/dL are considered pre-diabetic levels.

HbA1c test is more accurate because shows the average level of blood sugar (glucose) over the previous 3 months but is heavily weighted to the past 2-4 weeks.
• Normal: Less than 5.7%
• Pre-diabetes: 5.7% to 6.4%
• Diabetes: 6.5% or higher

Common signs and symptoms of diabetes include: Excessive thirst, Frequent urination, Excessive Hunger, Weight loss, Fatigue, Changes in vision, Slow-healing cuts or infections and Persistent itching of the skin. If left untreated, the level of glucose in the blood can become very high, inducing coma and possibly death. The signs and symptoms you have depend on when your diabetes is discovered and what type of diabetes you have.

Diabetes cannot be cured. Keeping the level of sugar in the blood within its normal range can, however, control it. The treatment and management of diabetes varies from patient to patient. Patients with Type 1 diabetes do not produce insulin. Patients who lack insulin in their bodies must make certain adjustments in their diet and must take insulin. Insulin can only be given through injections. These injections may need to be given several times a day. Patients with Type 2 diabetes may not need insulin. Diabetes in these patients is typically controlled with diet and exercise. Sometimes oral medications are also prescribed. In some cases of Type 2 diabetes, insulin may also be required. The success of your treatment depends largely on you. When you learn AND practice how to control your sugar level, you will enjoy a healthier life. You can control diabetes by:
1. Eating right
2. Exercising
3. Monitoring your blood sugar level
4. Taking prescribed medications
5. Learning about diabetes

A healthy diet may include changing what you eat, how much you eat, and how often you eat. Exercise helps diabetic patients in many ways. It lowers glucose levels, helps weightloss, and maintains a healthy heart and healthy circulation. In addition, exercising helps relieve stress and strengthens muscles.

If you do not follow your diet, exercise, and perform sugar level tests, serious complications can arise. Complications of diabetes include damage to the nerves and blood vessels of the body. It is not known why diabetes causes nerves to become damaged. The nerve damage is known as diabetic neuropathy. It usually involves the nerves going to the lower legs and feet. The feet or legs could feel numb or unusually cold. In men with diabetes, the most common problem is impotence due to damaged nerves going to the sexual organs. In women with diabetes, damaged nerves in the pelvic organs and genitals can lead to impaired sexual arousal and painful intercourse. Because the nerves that go to the heart may be affected, diabetics who have a heart attack may not experience the typically described chest pain. Diabetics should therefore be very suspicious when they feel chest heaviness, arm numbness, or indigestion. These could be symptoms of a heart attack.

High blood sugar can cause damage to large and small blood vessels. Fat in the blood is deposited on the walls of blood vessels. This causes hardening of the arteries or arteriosclerosis. Hardening of the arteries can occur in important arteries leaving or entering the heart. It can also occur in the legs. The thickening of small blood vessels is most noticeable in the kidney and in the back of the eye. When the small vessels in the back of the eye thicken, blood may leak into the inside of the eye or vitreous fluid. This causes the vitreous fluid to become cloudy. If not treated, this condition, called diabetic retinopathy, can lead to blindness. Diabetes may stop the kidneys from cleaning waste out of the blood. In addition, proteins that should stay in the body may leak into the urine.

(Source: U. S. National Library of Medicine - National Institute of Health)