Disease Diabetes


Diabetes is a growing problem in Minnesota. In 2015, 7.6 percent of Minnesota adults (about 320,000)1 had been diagnosed with diabetes (type 1 or 2). That number does not account for the nearly 1 in 4 people who don’t know they have it. There’s a great deal of information available about diabetes types, risk factors, symptoms and managing your disease. The following is intended to be a summary of basic diabetes information, leading to additional trusted sources for more detail.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a set of diseases that occurs when glucose (sugar) builds up in your blood. It is caused by problems with insulin, a hormone that helps your body use glucose. Glucose provides energy to your body. It is found in carbohydrates in food2.

Common types of diabetes

Type 1 diabetes

Develops when the pancreas (an organ near your stomach) stops making insulin. Type 1 often starts in childhood, but adults can develop it2.

Type 2 diabetes

Develops when the pancreas slows down its production of insulin or the body cannot use the insulin. Type 2 diabetes is on the rise worldwide. About 95 percent of all diabetes cases are type 22. Most cases occur among adults.

Gestational diabetes (GDM)

Affects women during pregnancy and usually goes away after pregnancy. Between two and 10 percent of women have had GDM2.

Who is at risk for diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes

We know some genes can increase risk of type 1 diabetes, but we do not know what triggers it or how to prevent it. Having a family history of type 1 may put you at greater risk2. Also, non-Hispanic whites are more likely to experience type 1 diabetes than other ethnic groups.

Type 2 diabetes

Many people are at increased risk for type 2 diabetes:

  • Older adults: Diabetes is more common among older adults2.
  • Ethnic groups: Other than non-Hispanic white adults experience more type 2 diabetes2,3.
  • People with a family history of diabetes2: Shared lifestyle patterns like diet and exercise are important and genes may play a role too.
  • Women who had Gestational Diabetes: Between 35 and 60 percent of women who had GDM will develop type 2 diabetes later in life3.
  • Adults with cardiovascular disease and cardiovascular risk factors: In 2015, 26 percent of Minnesota adults reported having been diagnosed with high blood pressure and 32 percent have high cholesterol1.
  • Adults with prediabetes: 15 to 30 percent of people with prediabetes will develop type 2 diabetes within five years5. As many as 37 percent of adults in Minnesota may have prediabetes3.
  • Overweight and obese adults: Nearly 2 in 3 adults (63 percent) in Minnesota were overweight or obese in 20152.
  • People who have low levels of physical activity2: In 2015, only 22 percent of Minnesota adults regularly got all recommended physical activity, which includes: 1) muscle strengthening and 2) aerobic activity1. Being overweight or obese, and getting low levels of physical activity, are factors that potentially can be changed to lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

What are the symptoms of type 2 diabetes?

Not everyone with type 2 diabetes has symptoms. Your healthcare team can run a blood test to tell if you have diabetes or prediabetes if your age, BMI or health history suggests you could be at risk.

If you experience any of the following symptoms, please contact your healthcare team immediately.

  • Urinating often
  • Feeling very thirsty
  • Feeling very hungry - even though you are eating
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Blurry vision
  • Cuts/bruises that are slow to heal
  • Weight loss - even though you are eating more
  • Tingling, pain, or numbness in the hands or feet

Who should get tested for diabetes?

At age 45, everyone should get tested. Adults between 18-44 years who are overweight or obese, and have one or more of the following risk factors should get tested.

Risk factors

  • A family background that is African American, American Indian, Asian American, Hispanic/Latino or Pacific Islander
  • A birth parent, brother or sister with diabetes
  • Gestational diabetes during pregnancy
  • Delivered a baby that weighed 9 pounds or more
  • High blood pressure
  • Low HDL or “good” cholesterol
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
  • Dark patches in skinfolds on the neck, armpits or groin
  • History of cardiovascular disease
  • Not physically active

If tests are normal, then follow-up tests should happen at least every three years.

Take the American Diabetes Association’s Type 2 Diabetes Risk Test to see if you should be tested.

How can I manage my diabetes?

Diabetes Self-Management Education (DSME) programs are designed to help people with diabetes manage their diabetes well. Diabetes educators can help you if you are newly diagnosed or if you have been living with diabetes for years.

Find a program near you

Programs & Initiatives in Communities – Diabetes Management

For more information

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Basics About Diabetes

Quick Facts – Diabetes in Minnesota – find Minnesota data on incidence, disparities, control and costs.

Diabetes in Minnesota Fact Sheet (PDF) Updated April 2016

Special Diet Exemption Card (PDF) – The owner of this card is exempted by the Commissioner of Health from prohibitions on bringing food and drink into a public facility [MN Statute 145.867].

If you have questions about diabetes in Minnesota, contact: Renée Kidney (651) 201-5429.

1CDC, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Study
2National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse
3CDC, National Diabetes Statistics Report 2014
4CDC, Diabetes Data and Trends
5CDC, Diabetes Public Health Resource: Prediabetes
6Reuters, Diabetes rates may be leveling off overall: U.S. health officials 9/23/2014
7Geiss LS et al. 2014 JAMA 312(12):1218
8Hamman RF et al. 2014 Diabetes Care 37(12):3336