Diabetes is a chronic disease in which the body is unable to properly use or store glucose, a form of sugar created when the body's digestive processes break down the food we eat. Because of this, glucose backs up in the bloodstream, causing blood glucose (also called blood sugar) levels to rise too high, leading to a range of symptoms.

There are two primary types of diabetes

  • Type 1 diabetes
    Formerly called juvenile-onset diabetes, this form of the disease occurs when the body completely stops producing insulin, a hormone that enables the body to use glucose found in food for energy.
  • Type 2 diabetes
    Formerly called adult-onset diabetes, this form of the disease occurs when the body doesn't produce enough insulin and/or is unable to properly use the insulin it does produce. Type 2 diabetes usually occurs in people who are over age 40, overweight and have a family history of diabetes.

Two other subsets of the disease are

  • Pre-diabetes
    A condition in which blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes, putting one at increased risk for diabetes; this condition can be a precursor to type 2 diabetes.
  • Gestational diabetes
    Diabetes that occurs during and usually only lasts through pregnancy; this condition raises the risk for developing diabetes later in life

Affecting nearly 26 million Americans, diabetes has risen to epidemic proportions. Type 1 diabetes affects approximately 5 to 10 percent of this population and, although predominantly seen in children or adults under age 40, it can occur at any time in one's life. Type 2 diabetes, the most common type of diabetes, was once mostly seen in adults, but is now increasingly occurring in children and teenagers.