Diabetes Overview

What is Diabetes?

picture of young woman

Diabetes means that your blood sugar is too high. Your body changes much of the food you eat into sugar, also called glucose. Your blood carries this sugar to the cells in your body.

Glucose is the major source of energy for your body, but your body needs insulin to help change glucose into energy. Diabetes is a disease that can stop your body from making insulin or prevent it from using insulin properly.

When you have diabetes, your body can’t change glucose into energy. Some parts of your body can’t get enough glucose for energy. Other parts can be harmed when exposed to too much glucose. Diabetes affects all parts of the body.

Diabetes is a serious disease. When the body is exposed to high blood sugar over a long period of time there can be serious damage to blood vessels and nerves. People who have poorly controlled diabetes have a greater risk of developing heart disease, kidney disease, blindness, and loss of feeling in their feet and legs.

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How do you know if you have diabetes?

Your medical provider checks your blood to see if you have diabetes. If the level of glucose in your blood is higher than normal, then you have diabetes.

There are two tests that can measure your blood sugar:

What kind of diabetes do you have?

There are two main types of diabetes:

Knowing what type of diabetes you have will help you take better care of yourself.

Type 1

People with type 1 diabetes don’t make any insulin and must take insulin shots. Type 1 diabetes once was called juvenile or insulin-dependent diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is usually seen in children, but sometimes appears in adults.

Type 2

People with type 2 diabetes either don’t make enough insulin or can’t properly use the insulin that they do make. Most people with type 2 diabetes are overweight and inactive.

Some people with type 2 diabetes can manage their blood sugar by eating healthy foods and being physically active every day. Others may need pills or insulin or both.

Type 2 diabetes once was called non-insulin dependent diabetes or adult-onset diabetes. Most people with diabetes have type 2, and they can get it at any age.

Terms that are no longer used include:

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What To Do

If you have diabetes you can be healthy and reduce the risks of complications when you:

NeighborsMiddle-aged couple.

"When my doctor told me I had diabetes, it scared me. Would I need to use needles and stop eating the food I like? Would I be sick the rest of my life?

I went home and told my wife, Barbara, and we read the handout the doctor gave us. We called the number on it and made an appointment with a diabetes educator to learn more about diabetes.

We’ve been meeting some other people in the same boat. We learned about some ways to get exercise here in our town. I’m learning how to keep my blood sugar down, and we still eat good meals. It’s not so bad.

I’m glad I found out about my diabetes early enough so I can do something about it. Sure, some days it’s a nuisance, but I can handle it. I’ve actually lost a few pounds and I’m feeling pretty good."

How to Find a Diabetes Educator

Web sites

Telephone numbers

Diabetes Prevention and Control Program, Vermont Department of Health -
1-800-464-4343 or 802-863-7330

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