What Is Diabetes?

Diabetes means that your blood glucose (blood sugar) is too high. There are two main types of diabetes, Type 1 and Type 2.

Types of Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes - the body does not make insulin. Insulin helps the body use glucose from food for energy. People with type 1 need to take insulin every day.

Latent Autoimmune Diabetes of Adults (LADA), also called late-onset autoimmune diabetes of adulthood or aging, slow onset type 1 diabetes or diabetes type 1.5.  This form of type 1 diabetes occurs in adults, often with a slower course of onset.

Type 2 diabetes - the body does not make or use insulin well. People with type 2 often need to take pills or insulin. Type 2 is the most common form of diabetes.

Gestational diabetes - may occur when a woman is pregnant. Gestational diabetes raises her risk of getting another type of diabetes, mostly type 2, for the rest of her life. It also raises her child’s risk of being overweight and getting diabetes.

Prediabetes - the blood sugar is high but not high enough to be Type 2 diabetes; can be treated with lifestyle changes; also called impaired glucose tolerance.

Diabetes of the brain - some believe Alzheimer's is a brain form of diabetes.

Symptoms and Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes

Click here for more information to find out if you are at risk for diabetes.

Some people show symptoms of type 2 diabetes and others do not. The most common symptoms are:

  • feeling tired or sick        
  • unusual thirst
  • frequent urination especially at night
  • weight loss
  • blurred vision
  • frequent infections
  • slow-healing wounds

Some people have a higher risk of developing diabetes. A person is more likely to develop type 2 diabetes if they:

  • have a family history of diabetes
  • are African American, Hispanic/Latino American, American Indian, Asian American, or Pacific Islander American
  • are overweight or obese
  • are 45 years old or older
  • had diabetes while pregnant (gestational diabetes)
  • have pre-diabetes (glucose levels are elevated but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes)
  • have high blood pressure
  • have abnormal cholesterol (lipid) levels
  • are not getting enough physical activity
  • have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • have blood vessel problems affecting the heart, brain or legs
  • have dark, thick and velvety patches of skin around  the neck and armpits

Take a diabetes risk test here.

If you think you may have diabetes or want more information on preventing diabetes, talk to your health care provider.

Diabetes Complications

Diabetes is a serious disease. If you have diabetes, you are more likely to have:

Taking good care of yourself and your diabetes will help you feel better today and in the future. When your blood sugar (glucose) is close to normal, you are likely to:

  • have more energy  
  • be less tired and thirsty
  • need to pass urine less often
  • heal better
  • have fewer skin or bladder infections
  • lower your risk of other health problems because of diabetes

***The information provided on the KCHC website is provided as an informational resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. This information is not intended to be patient education, does not create any patient-physician relationship, and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment.

***Please consult your health care provider before making any healthcare decisions or for guidance about a specific medical condition. The KCHC expressly disclaims responsibility, and shall have no liability for any damages, loss, or injury whatsoever suffered as a result of your reliance on the information received from the KCHC website. KCHC does not endorse specifically any information item, test, treatment, or procedure mentioned in the KCHC website.