"Diabetes mellitus," more commonly referred to as "diabetes," is a condition that causes blood sugar to rise to dangerous levels: a fasting blood glucose of 126 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or more.
Most of the food you eat is turned into glucose, or sugar, for your body to use for energy. The pancreas, an organ near the stomach, produces a hormone called insulin. This hormone is necessary for the body to be able to use sugar or glucose, the basic fuel for cells in the body. Insulin's role is to take sugar from the blood into the cells. When your body does not produce enough insulin and/or does not efficiently use the insulin it produces, sugar levels rise and build up in the bloodstream. When this happens, it can cause two problems:
How Diabetes Develops
1. Right away, the body's cells may be starved for energy.
2. Over time, high blood glucose levels may damage the eyes, kidneys, nerves or heart.
There are two main types of diabetes: type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes. Both types may be inherited in genes, so a family history of diabetes can significantly increase a person's risk of developing the condition.
Types of Diabetes
Precursors to DiabetesIn addition to full-blown diabetes mellitus, there are precursors to the disease:
Untreated diabetes can lead to many serious medical problems, including heart disease and stroke. That's why it's important to be aware of the symptoms as well as the risk factors and to take appropriate steps to prevent and treat insulin resistance and diabetes.
This content was last reviewed on 6/28/2012.