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Health Information Diabetes

Diabetes: An Overview

Diabetes is a metabolic disorder characterized by a failure to secrete enough insulin, or, in some cases, the cells do not respond appropriately to the insulin that is produced.

For glucose (a simple sugar that the body uses as its main source of energy) to be able to move into the cells of the body, the hormone insulin must be present. Insulin is produced primarily in the pancreas, and, normally, is readily available to move glucose into the cells.

However, in persons with diabetes, either the pancreas produces too little or no insulin, or the cells do not respond to the insulin that is produced. This causes a build-up of glucose in the blood, which passes into the urine where it is eventually eliminated, leaving the body without its main source of fuel.

Because insulin is needed by the body to convert glucose into energy, these failures result in abnormally high levels of glucose accumulating in the blood. Diabetes may be a result of other conditions such as genetic syndromes, chemicals, drugs, malnutrition, infections, viruses, or other illnesses.

The three main types of diabetes — type 1, type 2, and gestational — are all defined as metabolic disorders that affect the way the body metabolizes, or uses, digested food to make glucose, the main source of fuel for the body.

In “prediabetes,” blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be defined as diabetes. However, many people with prediabetes develop type 2 diabetes within 10 years, states the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).

Prediabetes also increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. With modest weight loss and moderate physical activity, people with prediabetes can delay or prevent type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes is the sixth leading cause of death among Americans, and the fifth leading cause of death from disease. Although it is believed that diabetes is under-reported as a condition leading to or causing death, each year, more than 200,000 deaths are reported as being caused by diabetes or its complications.

Complications of diabetes include eye problems and blindness, heart disease, stroke, neurological problems, amputation, and impotence.

Because diabetes (with the exception of gestational diabetes) is a chronic, incurable disease that affects nearly every part of the body, contributes to other serious diseases, and can be life threatening, it must be managed under the care of a physician throughout a person’s life.

Always consult your physician for more information.

Are you interested in lifestyle changes for preventing diabetes? Read “Preventing Diabetes” from Discover Rush Online.

Diabetes Care at
Rush University Medical Center

Endocrinologists at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois, participate in multidisciplinary care teams with other Rush specialists managing the complex medical and surgical care of patients with diabetes and other endocrine disorders. Working in state-of-the art facilities, using some of the world’s most sophisticated technology, these experts are on the leading edge of diagnosis, treatment and discovery.

In addition, the Rush University Diabetes Center in Chicago has been recognized by the American Diabetes Association for quality self-management education. The center’s team includes a registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator and nurse practitioner, who educate patients on what they can do to best control their diabetes.

For more information about diabetes care at Rush visit our Endocrinology home page and the Diabetes Center at Rush home page.

Looking for Other Health Information?

  • Visit our Health Information home page.
  • Visit Discover Rush’s Web Resource page to find articles on health topics and recent health news from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois. You will also find many helpful links to other areas of our site.

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