What is Diabetes?

What is Diabetes?
Erica Beukelman, owner of 10.11 Makeup, used neutral, fresh hues on this bride, along with lush lashes and a pretty pink pout. (Photo by Joel Beukelman for 10.11)

Most people do not know the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at each of the forms the disease may take. 


Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune process in which the immune system destroys insulin-producing cells and the individual is required to take insulin by injections or insulin pumps in order to survive. Most people who develop Type 1 are otherwise healthy and treatment must be continued indefinitely in all cases. Those with Type 1 diabetes are not generally overweight or inactive. 


Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, is linked to diet, weight and a lack of exercise. 

People with Type 2 diabetes have an abnormally high level of blood glucose. The pancreas may or may not be able to produce insulin, but even if it does, the cells of the body grow resistant to it and the body can no longer process glucose effectively. The pancreas cannot keep up with the demand for insulin, blood glucose levels rise and the body remains starved for energy.

There are people who have a higher risk for developing diabetes. If you have high blood pressure, eat a poor diet, get little or no exercise or are overweight or obese, you could be on the path to diabetes.  


Gestational Diabetes

Pregnant women who have never had diabetes but who have high blood-sugar levels during pregnancy have what is called gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes affects about 4% of all pregnant women and starts when a woman’s body is unable to make and use all the insulin it needs for pregnancy. Without enough insulin, glucose cannot leave the blood and be converted to energy, so it builds up in the blood to high levels. This is called hyperglycemia. 


Risks for Minority Populations

Diabetes disproportionately affects Latino populations, who are nearly twice as likely to develop diabetes over the course of their lifetimes as whites. If present trends continue, one in three Americans — and nearly one in two minority Americans — born after 2000 will develop diabetes in their lifetime.

Compared with the general population, African Americans are also disproportionately affected by diabetes. Of all African Americans aged 20 or older, 3.7 million (14.7%) have diabetes. African Americans are 1.8 times more likely to have diabetes than whites and 25% of African Americans between the ages of 65 and 74 have diabetes. 


Reprinted with permission from the 

American Diabetes Assn. (