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Diabetes and Your Health

What is diabetes?


  • Is a disease that is sometimes called diabetes mellitus or "sugar"
  • Occurs when your body:
    • Does not make enough insulin, or
    • Cannot use normal amounts of insulin properly. Insulin is a hormone normally produced by the body that regulates the amount of sugar in your blood.

Are there different types of diabetes?

Yes. They are called:

  • Type 1 diabetes:
    • Usually begins in childhood
    • Is also called "insulin-dependent" diabetes mellitus
    • Occurs when your body does not make enough insulin
    • Insulin injections will be needed.
  • Type 2 diabetes:
    • Is also called non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus
    • Your body makes insulin, but cannot use it properly
    • Can be controlled by diet, exercise and/or taking medications, but insulin may also be needed.
    • Is more common among African Americans, American Indians, Latin Americans and Asian Americans.
    • Usually occurs in people over 45 years of age, but is becoming more common in younger people.

How does diabetes affect my health?

Diabetes can damage your kidneys, eyes, nerves, heart and blood vessels, and increase your risk for:

  • Heart attacks
  • Strokes
  • Chronic kidney disease.

What are the warning signs of diabetes?

Signs and symptoms may include:

  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Sleepiness
  • Hunger
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Sores that do not heal well
  • Tingling in hands and feet.

You may not have any signs or symptoms, but you should see your doctor if you have any of the symptoms listed above.

How will my doctor check for diabetes?

Your doctor will do a blood test to check your blood sugar level. Normal levels are:

  • 60 B 126 fasting (having no food/drink for eight hours before the test)
  • 60 B 139 non-fasting (having food/drink within the eight hours before the test).

How can I manage my diabetes?

You can help manage diabetes better by:

  • Monitoring your blood sugar levels during the day
  • Knowing what your blood sugar level should be
  • Keeping your blood sugar level within normal limits
  • Following the plan of care recommended by your doctor
  • Knowing the importance of controlling your blood pressure, and possibly monitoring your blood pressure at home.

What if I have more questions?

  • Speak to your doctor and/or dietitian
  • Contact the National Kidney Foundation's toll free number 800-622-9010.

If you would like more information, please contact us.

© 2015 National Kidney Foundation. All rights reserved. This material does not constitute medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. Please consult a physician for specific treatment recommendations.

Last Reviewed: 06/04/2019
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