What is diabetes?

Diabetes happens when the body does not make or properly use insulin. Insulin is a hormone that converts sugar, starches and other food into energy needed for daily life.

The cause of diabetes is unknown, although both genetics and environmental factors, such as obesity and lack of exercise, appear to play roles. There are fours major types of diabetes.

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is when the body doesn’t produce insulin, the hormone that “unlocks” the cells of the body, allowing glucose to enter and fuel them. It is estimated that 5-10 percent of Americans who have diabetes, have type 1. A person who has type 1 diabetes must take insulin daily to live.

Type 2 Diabetes

When type 2 diabetes is diagnosed, the body is producing enough insulin, but doesn’t properly use it, a condition called insulin resistance. Most Americans with diabetes have type 2 diabetes.

Gestational Diabetes

Pregnant women who have never had diabetes before but who have high blood sugar (glucose) levels during pregnancy are said to have gestational diabetes.

Gestational diabetes starts when the body is not able to make and use all the insulin it needs for pregnancy. Without enough insulin, glucose cannot leave the blood and be changed to energy. Glucose builds up in the blood to high levels. This is called hyperglycemia.


Pre-diabetes is a condition that occurs when blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough for a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. This condition raises the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke. There are 41 million Americans who have pre-diabetes, in addition to the 18.2 million with diabetes.

What are the symptoms of diabetes?

Common symptoms include:

  • Frequent urination
  • Increased thirst
  • Extreme hunger
  • Unusual weight loss
  • Irritability
  • Blurry vision
  • Tingling or numbness in hands or feet
  • Fatigue
  • Very dry skin
  • Sores that are slow to heal
  • More infections than usual

How is diabetes treated?

Type 1 treatment includes:

  • Blood sugar monitoring
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Insulin injections
  • Exercise
  • Regular doctor visits
  • Regular foot and eye exams

Type 2 treatment includes:

  • Blood sugar monitoring
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Exercise
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Medications
  • Regular doctor visits
  • Regular foot and eye exams

How can I reduce my risk of getting diabetes?

  • Be physically active every day
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Get screened for diabetes

Where can I find more information on diabetes?

Visit the Diabetes webpage on our community education website www.gethealthyclarkcounty.org < for more information.

Contact Information

(702) 759-1000

Updated on: January 16, 2019

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