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Diabetes occurs when you lack the hormone insulin or when your insulin is not able to work effectively to move blood sugar (blood glucose) to the body’s cells. That causes glucose to rise to abnormally high levels in your blood, which can cause damage to many organs.

Types of diabetes

Type 1 diabetes

Also called juvenile diabetes, type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease where your body destroys cells that make insulin. If you have type 1 diabetes, you must take insulin injections in order to live.

Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. It starts when the body does not use insulin properly. Over time, your body cannot produce enough insulin to function properly. As a result, glucose builds up in the blood and can damage many organs.

Gestational diabetes is type 2 diabetes that only develops during pregnancy and goes away after the baby is born. Women who develop gestational diabetes are at an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

Diabetes symptoms

Some people with diabetes do not have symptoms. But others may experience the following:

  • Excessive thirst
  • Excessive hunger
  • Unusual weight loss
  • Slow-healing sores
  • Foot pain or numbness
  • Blurry eyesight

Just because you have these symptoms does not mean you have diabetes — other conditions can cause similar problems.

Diabetes complications

Having a high blood sugar level can cause serious health problems and may contribute to complications such as the following:

  • Kidney disease
  • Nerve damage (diabetic neuropathy)
  • Eye disease (diabetic retinopathy)
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Loss of feet or legs

How can I get help for diabetes?

If you have diabetes symptoms, make an appointment to see your primary care doctor. A blood test can determine if you have diabetes.

You may also call for an appointment at the Rush University Diabetes Center. At the center, you can receive education and treatment from a specialized team of physicians, nurses and dietitians.

If you are overweight and not physically active, you are at higher risk for diabetes. You are also at higher risk if you have family members with diabetes. Regular checkups are important so that your doctor can check for early signs of the disease. You can then start treatment to help prevent the development of serious health problems.

Departments and programs that treat this condition