What Is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a common, controllable, lifelong disease.  When a person has diabetes, his or her body cannot properly use the energy it gets from the food eaten. This is because the body either is no longer producing insulin, is not producing enough insulin, or the insulin is not working.  Insulin is a natural hormone produced by the pancreas, and its job is to keep blood sugar levels normal. The three main types of diabetes are: type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, and gestational diabetes.  Another condition called pre-diabetes is almost always a precursor to type 2 diabetes.

Know Your Risk

Type 2 diabetes prevention is possible, powerful, and proven!  It is important to find out early if you are at risk for Type 2 diabetes or if you have pre-diabetes.

To find out your risk, take the American Diabetes Association Risk Test.

You may also take the risk test below, sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes (formerly known as insulin-dependent or juvenile-onset diabetes) is usually diagnosed before the age of 30.  With this type of diabetes, the pancreas produces little or no insulin, which the body needs to control the amount of sugar (glucose) in the blood.  People with type 1 diabetes must take insulin to live.  They manage their diabetes by taking insulin, monitoring blood sugar levels, eating healthy foods, and engaging in regular physical activity, all of which help to control blood sugar levels.

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes (formerly known as non-insulin-dependent or adult-onset diabetes) is usually diagnosed after the age of 40, but is becoming increasingly more common among younger people.  With type 2 diabetes, insulin is produced in insufficient amounts and/or cannot be used by the body to control blood sugar levels.  People with type 2 diabetes control blood sugar levels by eating healthy foods, engaging in regular physical activity, taking their medications (by mouth or injection), and monitoring their blood sugar levels.  Sometimes multiple medications and insulin are needed to control blood sugar levels.

Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes is a condition unique to pregnancy in which the blood sugar levels become elevated because of the mother's insufficient production of insulin or her body's inability to use insulin properly.  During pregnancy, the woman manages the disease by monitoring blood sugar levels, eating healthy foods, and engaging in regular physical activity.  Insulin may also be needed.  Women with gestational diabetes are at increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes.


Pre-diabetes is a condition in which blood glucose levels are higher than normal but are not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes.  People with pre-diabetes are 5 to 15 times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes compared to people without pre-diabetes.  People with pre-diabetes are also at increased risk for heart disease and stroke.  Other names used for pre-diabetes are impaired glucose tolerance and impaired fasting glucose.  People with pre-diabetes may prevent or delay development of type 2 diabetes by maintaining a healthy weight and getting regular physical activity.

Other Resources - What Is Diabetes?

The Diabetes-Related Websites link will take you to another page that provides many additional websites with more information on diabetes, its risk factors, and its complications.

Last Revised: July 26, 2016