Disease Information

What is diabetes

Diabetes is a disease in which the body either does not produce enough insulin or does not use insulin properly. Our body needs insulin to convert glucose, or sugar, into the energy needed for everyday life. Without insulin, glucose remains in the bloodstream, forcing the body to find alternative sources of fuel like fat and protein. The cause of diabetes remains a mystery, although both genetic and environmental factors, such as obesity and lack of exercise, appear to play significant roles.

Major types of diabetes

  • Type 1 Diabetes - Caused by the failure of the body to produce insulin, a hormone that helps cells absorb glucose and convert it into energy. Approximately 5-10% of Americans have type 1 diabetes.  Visit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation to learn more.
  • Type 2 Diabetes – The most common form of diabetes, characterized by high levels of blood glucose due to insulin resistance.  Visit National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse to learn more.

Diabetes and heart disease

  • Cerebrovascular Disease:  Diabetes is associated with a 10-fold increase in stroke in patients <44 years of age and it doubles the rate of recurrent stroke.
  • Peripheral Artery Disease:  Diabetes leads to a 2- to 4-fold increase in the incidence and severity of limb ischemia and is the number one cause of non-traumatic amputations. Diabetics have a 20-fold increase in the risk of amputation.
  • Coronary Artery Disease:  Diabetics have 2- to 4-fold increase in risk for heart disease. After myocardial infarction, the 1 month mortality rate is increased by 58% in diabetics. About 50% diabetics die within the first  5 years after a heart attack.  In patients with known coronary artery disease, the mortality rate is 75% over 10 years.

Secondary Complications of Diabetes

Eye Disease - Retinopathy:  Occurs in 75% of diabetics after 15 years of disease. Diabetic retinopathy is the most common cause of blindness in the United States.

Nerve Damage - Neuropathy:  Half of all diabetics develop polyneuropathy  or the loss of peripheral sensation.

Kidney Disease – Nephropathy: Diabetes is the major cause of end-stage renal disease.

These secondary complications of diabetes could be prevented or delayed by controlling blood glucose levels.