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Characteristics of Diabetes

By Ngozi Oguejiofo ; Updated August 14, 2017

Diabetes is a disease that involves high blood glucose levels. When a person eats food, the body converts it to glucose. The glucose is then transported from the bloodstream into the cells by a hormone called insulin. This hormone is made in the pancreas. When the body does not make enough insulin, diabetes occurs. It is a disease that puts individuals at risk for several diseases such as heart disease, kidney failure, stroke and eye problems.


Prediabetes is a condition in which an individual's blood sugar level is high, but not high enough to be considered diabetes. A person with prediabetes may develop diabetes at a later date without treatment.

Type 1 diabetes occurs in about 10 percent of all people who have diabetes, according to the Merck Manuals Online Medical Dictionary. In this type of diabetes, 90 percent of the cells that produce insulin in the pancreas are irreversibly destroyed. Therefore, little to no insulin is produced.

In type 2 diabetes, the pancreas produces enough insulin, but the body does not use it properly. Blood glucose levels remain high because the body resists the effects of insulin.


The Mayo Clinic reports that although symptoms of diabetes depend on the type of diabetes present, individuals may experience certain symptoms regardless of the type of diabetes they have. When blood sugar is high, as is the case in diabetes, the excess sugar spills into urine and causes the kidneys to attempt to dilute it by releasing large amounts of water. This causes people with diabetes to urinate frequently and also leads to increased thirst. Some other symptoms of diabetes include weight loss, fatigue, excessive hunger, blurred vision and wounds that do not heal quickly.

Risk Factors

Certain risk factors increase an individual's chances of developing diabetes. Family history is one such risk factor. The Mayo Clinic says individuals are more likely to develop diabetes if a parent or sibling has it. Some other risk factors include race, weight, inactivity and age. African-Americans, Asian-Americans, American-Indians and Hispanics have a higher risk of developing diabetes. As a person gets older, the risk of getting this disease increases. Having a lot of fat in the body may make the body become resistant to the effects of insulin. Exercise helps use up glucose, increasing the body's use of insulin and preventing weight gain.


Complications of diabetes may be short-term or long-term. Regardless of how quickly these complications develop, lack of treatment may be life threatening. Short-term complications of diabetes develop quickly and include high blood sugar levels, low blood sugar levels and diabetic ketoacidosis, in which the blood becomes acidic. This condition happens when the body breaks down fat for energy because the cells do not have access to glucose. Long-term complications of diabetes occur because high blood glucose levels damage blood vessels in the body over time. Some of these complications include hypertension (high blood pressure), kidney failure, vision problems and nerve damage. These complications take time to develop.


Treatment for diabetes includes taking insulin via injection, anti-diabetic medication, lifestyle changes and blood glucose monitoring. Maintaining a lifestyle with healthy eating and exercise is important, whether an individual has type 1 or type 2 diabetes. People who have type 1 diabetes need insulin, while those with type 2 diabetes may take oral medication. Some people with type 2 diabetes may also need to take insulin.

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