One in eleven U.S. adults has diabetes – that means that if you are not personally affected, you likely know someone who is. The disease also disproportionately affects minority populations.

Both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes center on the role of insulin in the body. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas, and it’s necessary for your body’s cells take in glucose sugar, which is used for energy. Without insulin, your body’s blood sugar can rise to dangerous levels.

Learning the difference

About 5-10 percent of people with diabetes have Type 1, which occurs when the body produces little to no insulin.  This means that Type 1 patients need to administer insulin each day to keep their blood sugar levels in the proper range.  The cause of Type 1 diabetes isn’t fully understood, though it is known that family members of Type 1 patients are at greater risk. There is currently no cure or prevention for Type 1 diabetes.

About 90 percent of people with diabetes have Type 2, which means that the body’s cells are resistant to insulin. This most often occurs to individuals who are overweight, sedentary or elderly. Genetics can also play an important role. Minority populations, including Hispanics and African Americans, tend to be at higher risk. In addition to lifestyle adjustments, Type 2 patients may need to take medications or insulin to keep their blood sugar levels in range. Some Type 2 patients have been able to reverse their diabetes through diet and exercise. This online test can help you assess whether you might have prediabetes, which would put you at increased risk for developing the disease.  

Understanding the signs

Both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, as well as gestational diabetes (diabetes that develops during pregnancy), have similar symptoms before diagnosis: frequent urination, extreme thirst, hunger, fatigue, blurry vision and cuts and bruises that are slow to heal. When diabetes is left untreated, complications include vision problems, nerve damage, kidney disease, heart disease, foot amputation, diabetic ketoacidosis and pregnancy complications.

It’s important to know that no one is to blame for developing diabetes and that it is a manageable condition. Talk to your health care provider if you think you may be at risk.