Disease Diabetes


What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic (long-lasting) disease that affects how your body turns food into energy.

Most of the food you eat is broken down into sugar (also called glucose) and released into your bloodstream. Your pancreas makes a hormone called insulin, which acts like a key to let the blood sugar into your body’s cells for use as energy.

If you have diabetes, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use the insulin it makes as well as it should. When there isn’t enough insulin or cells stop responding to insulin, too much blood sugar stays in your bloodstream, which over time can cause serious health problems, such as heart disease, vision loss, and kidney disease.

Common types of diabetes

Type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is caused by an autoimmune reaction (the body attacks itself by mistake) that stops your body from making insulin. About 5 percent of the people who have diabetes have type 1.

Type 2 diabetes

With Type 2 diabetes, your body doesn’t use insulin well and is unable to keep blood sugar at normal levels. Most people with diabetes – 9 in 10 – have type 2. It develops over many years and is usually diagnosed in adults (though increasingly in children, teens, and young adults).

Gestational diabetes (GDM)

Gestational diabetes develops in pregnant women who have never had diabetes. If you have gestational diabetes, your baby could be at higher risk for health complications. Gestational diabetes usually goes away after your baby is born, but increases your risk for type 2 diabetes later in life. Your baby is more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life too.


More than 1 in 3 people have prediabetes, and 90 percent of them don’t know they have it. Prediabetes is a serious health condition where blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough yet to be diagnosed as diabetes. Prediabetes increases your risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

Symptoms of type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes often has no symptoms, or the symptoms might go unnoticed. That is one reason why one in four people with diabetes don’t even know they have it. Ask your doctor if you should be tested for diabetes. Talk to your doctor right away if you do have symptoms of diabetes, such as:

  • Urinating often
  • Feeling very thirsty
  • Feeling very hungry even though you are eating
  • Extreme fatigue, especially after eating
  • Blurry vision
  • Cuts/bruises that are slow to heal

Managing diabetes

There isn’t a cure yet for diabetes, but healthy lifestyle habits, taking medicine as needed, getting diabetes self-management education, and working with your health care team can greatly reduce diabetes’ impact on your life.

Diabetes Self-Management Education and Support (DSMES)

Diabetes Self-Management Education and Support (DSMES) programs can help you manage your diabetes. Ask your doctor for a referral to a DSMES program or to a certified diabetes educator. DSMES is covered by Medicare, Medicaid and most insurance plans (copays and deductibles may apply).
Diabetes education can help you by:

  • Finding the best foods and meal plans that fit your life and budget
  • Helping you understand diabetes and how it affects your body
  • Showing you how your medications work and how to take them correctly
  • Offering tips for coping and solving problems
  • Helping you to set realistic goals for your diabetes
  • Offering tools to help you track your progress

Find a DSMES program near you

Diabetes self-help programs in your community

The Living Well with Diabetes and the Living Well with Chronic Conditions classes are both designed to help you gain confidence in your ability to control your symptoms and understand how your health problems affects your life. The small group classes meets once a week for six weeks for 2 ½ hours. The classes are guided by a pair of leaders, one or both of whom are non-health professionals with a chronic disease themselves.

If you live in Dodge, Fillmore, Freeborn, Goodhue, Houston, Mower, Olmsted, Rice, Steele, Wabasha, or Winona Counties:

Support groups

Support groups can offer you, your family members and friends with ongoing encouragement, understanding and assistance drawn from the collective wisdom of the group.

Additional Resources