What Is Diabetes?

Perhaps the first thing to know about diabetes is that it isn't just one disease.

It's actually a group of diseases characterized by high levels of glucose (sugar) in the blood. It may be that the pancreas doesn't make enough insulin—a hormone involved in turning food into glucose, which the body uses for energy. Another possibility is that the body isn't using insulin effectively.

Whatever the case, the end result is too much sugar in the blood. And excessive amounts of blood sugar can harm organs and lead to serious problems.

Diabetes typically strikes in one of three ways.

Type 1 diabetes

Previously called juvenile-onset diabetes, type 1 usually begins in childhood or young adulthood.

It occurs when the pancreas doesn't make enough insulin—or makes no insulin at all. That's why people with type 1 need to regularly take insulin, often with daily injections.

Only about 5 percent of adults diagnosed with diabetes have type 1.

Type 2 diabetes

This is the most common type of diabetes. About 90 to 95 percent of adults diagnosed with diabetes have type 2.

It was once called adult-onset diabetes, but it's increasingly being found in children.

Type 2 occurs when the pancreas doesn't make enough insulin or doesn't use it properly. Genetics, diet and inactivity are all probable causes. Medicines and sometimes insulin are needed to treat it.

Gestational diabetes

Some women who've never had diabetes before develop it during pregnancy.

Gestational diabetes usually resolves once the baby is born. However, it increases the mother's risk for future type 2 diabetes—as well as the baby's risk, if the mother isn't treated.

Diabetes care at Rush Oak Park Hospital

Rush Oak Park Hospital is home to a center dedicated to diabetes education and care. To make an appointment with a diabetes specialist, call (708) 660-INFO (4636) or visit Find a Doctor.

Rush Oak Park Hospital also offers an annual diabetes health fair, which offers screenings and education. Details will be appear on Rush Oak Park Hospital’s calendar of events when available.

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; National Diabetes Education Program; UpToDate
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