What Is Diabetes? Causes, Symptoms and Risk Factors

Close to 8.3% of the American population have diabetes. But what is diabetes? What is this ailment that affects 25.8 million children and adults in this country, of which 18.8 million have been diagnosed with the condition and 7 million still undiagnosed?

This article aims to discuss what is diabetes, some of the causes, symptoms and risk factors of this widely prevalent disease condition, the complications from which can at times be fatal.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes, medically called diabetes mellitus is a group of ailments that interfere with the way the body utilizes blood glucose, commonly known as blood sugar. Glucose plays an Measuring blood sugarimportant role in maintaining good health, since it provides energy for the cells, which make up the tissues and muscles. It also provides the necessary impetus to the brain to function optimally.

Thus, diabetes, usually a chronic condition, happens when one has excess glucose in the blood.

There can be two types of this condition: Type 1 and 2. High glucose levels can also occur during pregnancy, when it is called gestational diabetes. During this condition, the blood sugar levels may rise, but not to the level when it can be classified as diabetes. This condition is reversible.

What Causes this Condition?

For better understanding of the causes, one needs to first know the function of insulin, a hormone, produced by the pancreas. Diet triggers production of insulin which in turn regulates the supply of glucose to the cells. It essentially lowers the sugar level in the blood. When the sugar level drops, secretion of insulin also reduces.

What is Diabetes Type 1 and What Causes It?

This type of diabetes is caused when the body’s immune system damages the insulin production system in the pancreas. This creates sugar build up in the blood. Though the exact cause of the onset is unclear, genetic and environmental factors are considered to be the most likely reasons.

What is Diabetes Type 2 and What Causes It?

The most common form of diabetes, here too the exact causes are unclear but genetic and environmental factors could be precursors for the onset. Being overweight also increases the risk. Here the pancreas is incapable of making enough insulin and the cells become resistant to this hormone. This causes build-up of excess glucose in the blood.

What are the Symptoms?

  • Feeling excessively thirsty and hungry
  • Unexplained loss of weight
  • Tiredness
  • Extended healing time of sores, etc.
  • Rise in blood pressure
  • Recurrent infections of the gum, skin, vagina and bladder
  • Blurred vision

Are you at risk for Type2?

The following factors could increase chances of developing Type 2 diabetes:

  • Age: 45 and above
  • History of gestational diabetes
  • Overweight
  • History of diabetes in the family
  • HDL cholesterol under 35 mg/dL; High triglyceride levels
  • High BP (more than or equal to 140/90 mmHg)
  • Sedentary lifestyle; minimal physical exercises


Type 2 being more common, it is perhaps now clear from the risk factors and causes of onset that once above 45 years of age, one needs to get a blood sugar test done at least once in 3 years. This can prevent several diabetic complications later in life.

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