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Diabetes FAQ

There are many misconceptions about the different types of diabetes, getting diagnosed, and the symptoms that may appear. Type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes are chronic health conditions that affect how the body turns food into energy. In the US 37 million adults have diabetes and 1 in 5 of those patients don’t know they have it (1). Learning what causes diabetes and what can lower the risk of developing diabetes can be lifesaving.

What causes Diabetes?

During digestion, your body breaks down food into sugar (glucose) and releases it into the bloodstream. As your blood sugar in the body rises it signals the pancreas to release insulin. Insulin is a hormone that regulates how much glucose is in the bloodstream. A patient with diabetes or prediabetes doesn’t make enough insulin that is needed, leaving too much blood sugar in your bloodstream. Going unchecked can cause serious problems such as heart disease, vision loss, and kidney disease.

Types of Diabetes

Type 1

Type 1 diabetes is a chronic autoimmune reaction when the body attacks itself by mistake and destroys cells in the pancreas from making insulin. This autoimmune reaction can take months or years before symptoms may appear. Typically, type 1 diabetes is diagnosed during childhood or early adolescence, but it can be diagnosed at any age. With type 1 diabetes, taking insulin daily and managing your diet is required to prevent complications. There is no known way to prevent type 1 diabetes or cure it.

Type 2

Type 2 diabetes develops over several years and can be managed by losing weight, eating healthy foods, and staying active. Patients with type 2 diabetes are unable to keep their blood sugar at normal levels and this results in too much sugar circulating in the blood. With type 2 diabetes the pancreas does not produce enough insulin.


Prediabetes is when you experience higher than normal blood sugar levels. It's not considered high enough to be type 2 diabetes. With lifestyle changes, those with prediabetes can bring blood sugars back to normal by eating healthy food and exercising (4).

Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes occurs in pregnant women who have never previously had diabetes. Much like type 1 and type 2 diabetes, gestational affects how the body uses sugar. Typically, gestational diabetes goes away after the baby is born, although it increases the mother’s risk for type 2 diabetes later in life (1).

Signs and Symptoms

The signs and symptoms can vary, typically for type 1 diabetes patients may experience:

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Stomach pains

  • Feeling very hungry

  • Losing weight quickly

  • Thirsty

  • Feeling tired and weak

  • Having blurry vision

  • Frequent urination

Type 2 diabetes patients experience the same symptoms as type 1 diabetes and often develop slowly. Other symptoms of type 2 include:

  • Numbness or tingling in hands or feet

  • Areas of darkened skin

  • Frequent infections

Gestational diabetes often only presents itself with increased thirst or frequent urination. As a part of the mother's prenatal care, the healthcare provider will check for gestational diabetes. If they do develop gestational diabetes patients may require additional checkups on the baby's health (2). Gestational diabetes can be easily controlled through eating healthy and exercising to keep the mother and baby healthy and prevent a difficult delivery.

Preventing Type 2 Diabetes

If you have been diagnosed with prediabetes, you can prevent the course to type 2 diabetes. If you are overweight, losing 5% to 7% of your body weight can lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. If you are having trouble staying motivated or on course with a new lifestyle change, there are courses to help you stay on track.

One program offered through the CDC is the National Diabetes Prevention Program. This program helps patients make diet changes and stick to them, lowering their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 58% (3). The course includes:

  • Working with a certified coach to make long-lasting lifestyle changes.

  • Learning what foods to eat and how to add more physical activity to your day.

  • Discovering how to manage your stress, stay motivated, and solve issues that may slow your progress.

  • Support from other patients with similar goals and challenges as you.

If you have prediabetes and want to prevent type 2 diabetes now is the best time to take action. To see if there is a CDC-recognized National Diabetes Prevention Program offered near you click here. Additionally, check with your healthcare team to see what other courses are available near you that are available to join.

Diabetes is the eighth leading of death in the US (1). If you have a family history of diabetes or notice a change in your health, contact your healthcare team to be tested for diabetes. Going unchecked you risk long-term health complications including to your heart, blood vessels, kidneys, and pancreas.


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