Diabetes is a disease in which your blood sugar levels are too high. It affects 29 million Americans, or about 1 in 11. An additional 86 million people—more than 1 out of 3 adults—have prediabetes, a condition that eventually leads to diabetes in about 30 percent of people.

What causes diabetes?

Food contains glucose, a form of sugar, which powers the body’s cells. In a healthy person, a hormone called insulin helps to turn glucose from food into energy the body needs. But if the body produces too little insulin or doesn’t use it efficiently, that sugar stays in the blood and can cause serious problems involving the cardiovascular, nervous and other systems. People with diabetes are at a higher risk for heart disease and stroke.

Type 1 diabetes occurs when your body doesn’t produce any or enough insulin. Sometimes called “juvenile diabetes” because it’s usually diagnosed in children and teens, this type of diabetes accounts for just five percent of all diabetes patients.

Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body cannot use insulin properly and is much more common in adults. Risk factors for Type 2 diabetes include:

  • Being overweight or obese
  • Family history of diabetes
  • High blood sugar levels
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol

Symptoms of diabetes

Some people with diabetes don’t have any symptoms, but many do. Common symptoms of diabetes include:

  • Urinating often
  • Feeling hungry or thirsty often
  • Losing weight without trying
  • Dry or itchy skin
  • Feeling pins and needles in your feet
  • Fatigue
  • Blurry vision

How is diabetes diagnosed?

Diabetes can be diagnosed using a combination of your medical and family history, a physical exam, and the results from a blood test.

How is diabetes treated?

Diabetes can’t be cured, but it is manageable. You can keep your blood sugar levels under control by maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, eating well, and taking medication or insulin, if needed.