Diabetes mellitus, or diabetes, is a disease that causes high blood sugar. It occurs when there is a problem with insulin.
Insulin is a hormone that takes sugar from foods and moves it to the body's cells. If the body does not make enough insulin or does not use insulin well, the sugar from food stays in the blood, resulting in high blood sugar.
Diabetes is a key health concern worldwide. In the United States, the rate of new cases rose sharply from the 1990s, but it
The most common of diabetes is type 2. According to the CDC,
Diabetes is at an all-time high in the U.S. The CDC's Division of Diabetes Translation states that
In 2015, around
Between 1990 and 2010, the number of people living with diabetes
The risk of developing diabetes increases with age.
Type 2 diabetes is thought to result from a combination of genetic and lifestyle factors.
Scientists do not know the exact cause, but risk factors appear to include:
- excess body fat
- high blood pressure or cholesterol
- having a close family member with the condition
- a history of gestational diabetes
- higher age
As obesity has become more prevalent over the past few decades, so too has the rate of type 2 diabetes. In 2013, more than 1 in 3 people in the U.S. were considered to have obesity, and over 2 in 3 were either overweight or had obesity.
In 1995, obesity affected
Although the link between obesity and diabetes is well known, the reasons for the link remain unclear.
The same report notes that the location of body fat appears to play a role. People with more fat in the upper body area and around the waist are more likely to get diabetes than those who carry their body fat around the hips and lower body.
Rates of diabetes vary between ethnic groups.
There may be a combination of factors, including:
- health conditions
- access to healthcare
- non-Hispanic whites: 7.4 percent
- Asian Americans: 8.0 percent
- Hispanics: 12.1 percent
- non-Hispanic blacks: 12.7 percent
- American Indians and Alaska Natives: 15.1 percent
Diabetes can have serious health consequences.
According to the CDC,
Why and how does diabetes damage the body and cause complications?
The ADA says:
- Adults with diabetes are significantly more likely to die from a heart attack or stroke.
- More than a quarter of all Americans with diabetes have diabetic retinopathy, which can cause vision loss and blindness.
- Each year, nearly 50,000 Americans begin treatment for kidney failure due to diabetes. Diabetes accounts for 44 percent of all new cases of kidney failure.
- Each year, diabetes causes about 73,000 lower limb amputations, which accounts for 60 percent of all lower limb amputations (not including amputations due to trauma).
Learn more here about how diabetes affects life expectancy.
Because of its high prevalence and link to numerous health problems, diabetes has a significant impact on healthcare costs.
The productivity loss for reduced performance at work due to diabetes in 2012 was 113 million days, or $20.8 billion, according to the ADA.
Diabetes cost the U.S. $327 billion in 2017, including $237 billion in medical costs and $90 billion in reduced productivity.
However, this number does not include:
- the millions of people who have diabetes but no diagnosis
- the cost of prevention programs for people with diabetes, which are not counted under standard medical costs
- over-the-counter medications for eye and dental problems, which are more common in people with diabetes.
- administrative costs for insurance claims
- the cost of reduced quality of life, lost productivity of family members, and other factors that cannot be measured directly
Because diabetes affects various parts of the body, the medical costs span different areas of specialty. The ADA report that:
- 30 percent of medical costs associated with diabetes are for circulation problems that reduce blood flow to the limbs
- 29 percent of medical costs associated with diabetes are for kidney conditions
- 28 percent of medical costs associated with diabetes are for nervous system conditions
Despite its complications, people can manage their diabetes with a comprehensive plan that includes lifestyle changes and proper medical care. If they manage their blood sugar levels well, many people with diabetes can lead full, active lives.
In type 1 diabetes, the immune system attacks the cells in the pancreas that make insulin. As a result, the body does not produce insulin, and people with this condition must take insulin by injection or pump every day.
Type 1 diabetes usually develops in children or young adults, but it can occur at any age. There is no known way to prevent type 1 diabetes, and there is no cure.
In 2011-2012, around
People with type 2 diabetes may still have insulin in their bodies, but not enough for proper blood sugar management. Or, the body may not be able to use the insulin it has properly. As a result, blood sugar levels can become too high.
Typically, adults are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, but children can get it too. Certain factors increase a person's risk of getting type 2 diabetes, including:
- older age
- a family history of diabetes
- lack of exercise
- problems with glucose metabolism
The annual relative increase for type 1 diabetes in 2002-2012 in the U.S. was