Diabetes results when sugar (glucose) gets trapped in the blood, instead of being taken up by cells and stored or used for energy. People with diabetes often feel tired, thirsty, or need to urinate frequently.

High levels of sugar in the blood can be toxic to certain organs in the body. Over time it can lead to kidney failure or blindness. In severe cases, patients may have problems with blood circulation, leading to heart disease and stroke, or even amputation of a limb.

insulin and sugar

What Causes Diabetes?

The body needs energy to use during daily activities. The body gets that energy when food is converted into glucose (a form of sugar) that is dumped into the bloodstream.

When a person eats a meal, an organ called the pancreas secretes the hormone insulin. Insulin encourages cells to drink up the new sugar or glucose circulating in the blood. They can use it for energy, or store it to use later.

People with type 1 diabetes don't make any insulin. People with type 2 diabetes make insulin, but their cells do not respond to it very well. In both cases, the amount of sugar circulating in the blood raises to toxic levels.

Who's At Risk?

Diabetes is influenced by many genes and environmental factors. If type 2 diabetes runs in your family, you may have inherited factors that make you more susceptible to this disease.

A major risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes is obesity. Obesity causes a person's cells to forget how to use insulin (the hormone that signals cells to take up sugar).

The rate of Type 2 diabetes is rising dramatically among teenagers and young adults in the United States, mirroring increasing rates of obesity.

Age of Onset Under 30 years Over 30 years
Insulin Production None Partial
Obesity Not common Common
Genetic component Weak Strong
People with type 1 diabetes require shots of insulin to lower their blood sugar. People with type 2 diabetes reduce blood sugar levels by modifying their diet and increasing their physical activity. Medication may also be required.

Reducing The Risk

The best way to reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes is to stay active. Physical activity helps you maintain a healthy weight, and it helps your cells use insulin more effectively. Proper nutrition will help you maintain a healthy body weight as well.

healthy eating

APA format:

Genetic Science Learning Center. (2013, September 1) Diabetes. Retrieved April 15, 2024, from https://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/history/diabetes

CSE format:

Diabetes [Internet]. Salt Lake City (UT): Genetic Science Learning Center; 2013 [cited 2024 Apr 15] Available from https://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/history/diabetes

Chicago format:

Genetic Science Learning Center. "Diabetes." Learn.Genetics. September 1, 2013. Accessed April 15, 2024. https://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/history/diabetes.