Diabetes Conditions and Illnesses

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Diabetes is grouped into different types, based on the underlying cause. At UT Southwestern, our specialists have experience providing comprehensive care for all forms of the disease.

Types of Diabetes

There are several types of diabetes:

Type 1 Diabetes

Also known as juvenile diabetes and insulin-dependent diabetes, Type 1 diabetes is a disease with lifelong effects. This form of diabetes occurs when the pancreas cells that produce insulin are destroyed by an autoimmune process, making it difficult for the body to regulate blood sugar levels. Patients must take insulin and follow a restrictive diet. Approximately 1.25 million Americans have Type 1 diabetes.

While there is not yet a cure available for Type 1 diabetes, there are treatments that can help minimize the damage the disease does – making it important to diagnose it as soon as possible.

Type 2 Diabetes

Most Americans with diabetes have Type 2 diabetes, in which the pancreas produces insulin but the body doesn’t use it properly. Type 2 diabetes can be controlled without insulin therapy. People with Type 2 diabetes are urged to lose weight, eat a healthy diet, and exercise regularly.

Gestational Diabetes

Some pregnant women develop gestational diabetes, in which their body has difficulty using insulin properly, causing their blood sugar to rise. Unchecked, gestational diabetes can cause health problems for both mother and baby.

Fetuses exposed to high blood sugar are at higher risk for birth defects, premature delivery, or large size that may make delivery difficult. Expectant mothers with gestational diabetes may face the usual risks associated with diabetes, as well as higher blood pressure that could lead to seizure or stroke.

Pregnant women who have diabetes need to:

  • Monitor their blood sugar levels
  • Take medication as directed
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Exercise

Cystic Fibrosis-Related Diabetes

Cystic fibrosis-related diabetes is relatively common among people with the condition, affecting 40% to 50% of cystic fibrosis patients. It has characteristics of both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. Because cystic fibrosis can cause scarring of the pancreas, it can impact the pancreas’ ability to produce insulin (Type 1). Cystic fibrosis can also lower the body’s ability to respond to insulin (Type 2).

Symptoms of Diabetes

The symptoms of diabetes tend to arise silently, over time. Early diagnosis and treatment can make a profound difference in preventing high blood sugar levels, reducing the risk of complications, and maintaining good health.

Common symptoms of diabetes include:

  • Increased thirst and frequent urination
  • Increased hunger
  • Slow-healing sores or frequent infections
  • Feeling unwell
  • Vision changes, including blurred vision
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Areas of darkened skin, usually in the armpits
  • Abdominal pain

People who experience symptoms of diabetes should talk with their doctor.

Diabetes Risk Factors

The risk factors for diabetes include:

  • Excess weight or obesity
  • Family history of diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Latino or Hispanic, African American, Asian American, Native American, or Pacific Islander heritage
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome
  • Personal history of gestational diabetes

Diabetes-Related Illnesses

Undiagnosed, untreated, or improperly treated diabetes can lead to serious health issues that include:

UT Southwestern offers a range of educational programs for people with diabetes.