Nearly 16 million people in the United States--nearly one out of every 17 people--have diabetes. And about 1,800 new cases are diagnosed each day.
Technically, this disease is known as "diabetes mellitus," diabetes from the Greek for excessive urination, a symptom the ancients noticed, and mellitus, from the Latin for honey--diabetic urine is filled with sugar and is sweet.
There are three types of diabetes: type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes. All of them are a little different. But everyone with diabetes has one thing in common: Little or no ability to move sugar--or glucose--out of their blood into their cells, where it is the body's primary fuel.
Everyone has glucose in their blood, whether or not they have diabetes. This glucose comes from food. When we eat, the digestive process breaks down carbohydrates into glucose, which is absorbed into the blood in the small intestine.
People who don't have diabetes rely on insulin, a hormone made in the pancreas, to move glucose from the blood into the body's billions of cells.
But people who have diabetes either don't produce insulin or can't efficiently use the insulin they produce. Without insulin, they can't move glucose into the cells. Glucose accumulates in the blood, a condition called hyperglycemia ("hyper" = too much, "glycemia" = glucose in the blood). Hyperglycemia causes intense thirst, the need to urinate frequently, blurred vision, fatigue, and other symptoms. Over time, high blood glucose can cause very serious medical problems.
Adding up the total toll of diabetes complications, the disease is one of the nation's leading causes of death. All diabetes complications can be largely prevented by practicing what is known as "tight control," keeping your blood glucose level as close to normal as possible. This takes time and energy, but many diabetics do it successfully...