diabetes patient checking their blood sugar

What you need to know about diabetes

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Diabetes is a life-long disease that requires a lot of responsibility to manage it.

“Receiving treatment and embracing huge changes that affect your life can be stressful and difficult,” said David Jones, MD, a primary care provider with OSF HealthCare.

Dr. Jones said people should take the opportunity to have a conversation with their primary care provider if they are struggling with understanding or managing their diabetes. People with diabetes can even meet with their provider from the comfort of their own home, using a video visit.

“While there is still no cure for diabetes, there is good news; Type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed,” he said.

What is it?

Diabetes is a metabolic disorder where the body doesn’t make enough insulin or where the body is unable to use the insulin it makes. The body needs the hormone insulin to change blood sugar (glucose) into energy. Without insulin, too much glucose collects in the blood. Diabetes may also be a result of other conditions including genetic syndromes, chemicals, medicines, pancreatitis, infections and viruses.

The statistics

The number of diabetes cases is increasing at an alarming rate in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cases of diagnosed diabetes is estimated at 30.3 million – 9.4% of the U.S. population. It is the seventh leading cause of death.

The types

diabetes patient checking blood sugar on a meter at home

There are four types of diabetes: Type 1 (juvenile diabetes when diagnosed in children or teenagers), Type 2, gestational and Type 1.5 (latent autoimmune diabetes in adults, LADA). All four are metabolic disorders that affect the way the body uses (metabolizes) food to make glucose. Glucose is the main source of fuel for the body.

When it comes to treatment of any type of diabetes, Dr. Jones said “individualized care is becoming more important in treating the disease.”

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system destroys the cells in the pancreas that make insulin. This means the body has no or only a small amount of insulin. People with Type 1 diabetes must take insulin every day in order to live. Type 1 is usually detected through lab work.

“Individuals diagnosed with Type 1 have increased glucose in their blood and urine. Sometime they have abdominal pain,” Dr. Jones said. “There are no none medications or vaccines to prevent Type 1. There are genetic testing options being developed.”

Type 2 diabetes, or adult onset diabetes, happens when the body cannot make enough insulin or is not able to use it properly.

“Symptoms include weight loss, increased urination and increased appetite,” Dr. Jones said. “It may be controlled with diet, exercise and weight loss, or the individual may need oral medicines or insulin injections.

Mom-to-be with gestational diabetes checking blood sugarGestational diabetes happens in pregnant women who have not been diagnosed with diabetes in the past. With gestational diabetes, the body cannot effectively use the insulin that is present. This type of diabetes goes away after delivery. Gestational diabetes may be controlled with diet, exercise and attention to weight gain. Women with this type of diabetes may be at higher risk for Type 2 diabetes later in life.

Type 1.5, or LADA, is a lesser-known type, according to the American Diabetes Association’s research journal, Diabetes. It often acts like Type 2 diabetes, which leads to misdiagnosis. It is a slow-progressing form of autoimmune diabetes that occurs when the pancreas stops producing adequate insulin. People diagnosed with LADA are typically over age 30 when their symptoms develop.

“Patients with LADA can manage it by controlling their glucose levels through diet, exercise and likely oral medications,” Dr. Jones said. “Eventually, they will need insulin injections because the body gradually loses its ability to produce insulin.”

Who is at risk?

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, people over age 45 should be tested for pre-diabetes or diabetes. If the first blood glucose test is normal, they should be retested every three years.

People under age 45 should consider getting tested for pre-diabetes or diabetes if they have a body mass index (BMI) of greater than or equal to 25 and have one or more of the following risk factors:

  • Have a first-degree relative with diabetes (mother, father, or sibling)
  • Are a member of a high-risk ethnic group (African American, Hispanic, Asian, Pacific Islander, or Native American)
  • Delivered a baby weighing more than 9 pounds, or had diabetes during pregnancy
  • Have high blood pressure
  • Have an inactive lifestyle
  • Have impaired glucose tolerance when previously tested for diabetes
  • Have polycystic ovarian syndrome
  • Have been identified as having pre-diabetes
  • Have high cholesterol


“Awareness and the subsequent action of lifestyle changes are the two keys to prevent diabetes. The most common long-term complication of diabetes is cardiovascular disease, which can lead to heart attack, chest pain, stroke and even death,” Dr. Jones said. “People with Type 2 diabetes have twice the risk of heart disease as those without diabetes.

“My goal is to help my patients by guiding them to make the right decision,” Dr. Jones said. “I want to keep them as healthy as possible.”

Last Updated: January 4, 2022

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About Author: Lisa Coon

Lisa Coon is a Writing Coordinator for OSF HealthCare, where she has worked since August 2016.  A Peoria native, she is a graduate of Bradley University with a degree in journalism. Previously, she worked as a reporter and editor at several newspapers in Iowa and Illinois.

She lives in Groveland with her husband and son. In her free time she likes to cook, bake and read. She freely admits that reality TV is a weakness, and she lives by the quote, “The beach is good for the soul.”

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Categories: Diabetes