What is type 1 diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes (sometimes called type 1 “diabetes mellitus”) is a disorder that disrupts the way your body uses sugar.

All the cells in your body need sugar to work normally. Sugar gets into cells with the help of a hormone called insulin. If there is not enough insulin, or if the body stops responding to insulin, sugar builds up in the blood. That is what happens to people with diabetes.

There are 2 types of diabetes. People with type 1 diabetes make little or no insulin. People with type 2 diabetes sometimes also make too little insulin, but more often the problem is that their cells do not respond to insulin.

What are the symptoms of type 1 diabetes?
The symptoms include:

  • Intense thirst
  • Being very tired
  • Urinating often
  • Losing weight
  • Blurred vision

In extreme cases, type 1 diabetes can also cause nausea or vomiting, belly pain, and panting.

How do I know if I have type 1 diabetes?
Your doctor or nurse can do a blood test to measure the amount of sugar in your blood. The test will show whether you have diabetes. If you do, your doctor or nurse can then decide whether it is type 1 or type 2 – based on your age, your weight, and other factors.

How is type 1 diabetes treated?
Treatment for type 1 diabetes involves 2 key parts:

  • Measuring your blood sugar often, to make sure it does not get too high or too low. (Your doctor or nurse will explain how to measure your blood sugar, and how often to do it.)
  • Using insulin shots or an insulin pump to keep your blood sugar levels in the right range. (An insulin pump is a device that you wear close to your body. It is connected to a tube that goes under your skin and supplies insulin.)

People with type 1 diabetes also need to carefully plan their meals and activity levels. That’s because eating raises blood sugar, while being active lowers it. Despite the need to plan, people with diabetes can have normal diets, be active, eat out, and do all the things that most other people do.

There are other things you can do to stay healthy, such as not smoking. It’s also important to get the flu vaccine every year. Some people also need a vaccine to prevent pneumonia, too.

How often do I need to see my doctor or nurse?
You will probably need to see your doctor or nurse at least 3 or 4 times a year. Sometimes you will need more visits to learn how to manage your diabetes or if your blood sugar is not well controlled.

During your visits, your doctor or nurse will want to measure your blood sugar using a test called “A1C.” This test tells you your average blood sugar level over the last few months. Its results will help your doctor or nurse decide whether to adjust your treatment.

During some of your visits, your doctor or nurse will also check other aspects of your health. For instance, he or she might measure your blood pressure or cholesterol. It is very important that you keep all your appointments with your doctor or nurse.

Why is it important to keep my blood sugar close to normal?
Having high blood sugar can cause serious problems over time. It can lead to:

  • Nerve damage
  • Kidney disease
  • Vision problems (or even blindness)
  • Pain or loss of feeling in the hands and feet
  • The need to have fingers, toes, or other body parts removed (amputated)
  • Heart disease and strokes

Having low blood sugar can cause problems, too. It can make your heart beat fast, and make you shake and sweat. If blood sugar gets really low, it can cause more serious problems, too. People with very low blood sugar can get headaches, get very sleepy, pass out, or even have seizures.

Why is it important to keep my blood pressure and cholesterol low?
People with diabetes have a much higher risk of heart disease and strokes than people who do not have diabetes. Keeping blood pressure and cholesterol low can help lower those risks.

If your doctor or nurse puts you on blood pressure or cholesterol medicines, be sure to take them. Studies show that these medicines can prevent heart attacks, strokes, and even death.

What if I want to get pregnant?
Many women with type 1 diabetes have healthy pregnancies. If you want to have a baby, make sure you control your blood sugar really well before and during pregnancy. This will protect you and your baby from problems.

What is type 2 diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes (sometimes called type 2 “diabetes mellitus”) is a disorder that disrupts the way your body uses sugar.

All the cells in your body need sugar to work normally. Sugar gets into the cells with the help of a hormone called insulin. If there is not enough insulin, or if the body stops responding to insulin, sugar builds up in the blood. That is what happens to people with diabetes.

There are 2 different types of diabetes. In type 1 diabetes, the problem is that the body makes little or no insulin. In type 2 diabetes, the problem is that:

  • The body’s cells do not respond to insulin
  • The body does not make enough insulin
  • Or both

What are the symptoms of type 2 diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes usually causes no symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they include:

  • Needing to urinate often
  • Intense thirst
  • Blurry vision

If type 2 diabetes rarely causes symptoms, why should I care about it?
Even though type 2 diabetes might not make you feel sick, it can cause serious problems over time, if it is not treated. The disorder can lead to:

  • Heart attacks
  • Strokes
  • Kidney disease
  • Vision problems (or even blindness)
  • Pain or loss of feeling in the hands and feet
  • The need to have fingers, toes, or other body parts removed (amputated)

How do I know if I have type 2 diabetes?
To find out if you have type 2 diabetes, your doctor or nurse can do a blood test to measure the amount of sugar in your blood.

How is type 2 diabetes treated?
There are a few medicines that help control blood sugar. Some people need to take pills that help the body make more insulin or that help insulin do its job. Others need insulin shots.

Depending on what medicines you take, you might need to check your blood sugar regularly at home. But not everyone with type 2 diabetes needs to do this. Your doctor or nurse will tell you if you should be checking your blood sugar, and when and how to do this.

Sometimes, people with type 2 diabetes also need medicines to reduce the problems caused by the disease. For instance, medicines used to lower blood pressure can reduce the chances of a heart attack or stroke.

Medicines are not the only tool to manage diabetes. Being active, losing weight, eating right, and not smoking can all help people with diabetes stay as healthy as possible. It’s also important to get the flu vaccine every year. Some people also need a vaccine to prevent pneumonia, too.

Can type 2 diabetes be prevented?
Yes, it can. To reduce your chances of getting type 2 diabetes, the most important thing you can do is control your weight. If you already have the disorder, losing weight can improve your health and blood sugar control. Being active can also help prevent or control the disorder.