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What Is Diabetes?

Defining Diabetes

Diabetes is a serious medical condition where blood glucose (blood sugar) levels are abnormally high.  Diabetes happens when the body cannot efficiently use or produce its own insulin.  Insulin is a hormone that is made by the pancreas to control blood glucose levels.  When blood glucose levels are high for long periods of time, the risk of developing other health complications increase.  Health complications can include:

  • Heart disease

  • Kidney damage

  • Eye damage

  • Nerve damage (loss of feeling in toes and fingers)

  • Skin conditions

Diabetes is a broad term that is used to simplify this condition, however, there are several types of diabetes.  Type-1 and Type-2 diabetes are the most common types, yet there are 10 other kinds of diabetes.  Gestational, Juvenile, Latent autoimmune diabetes in adults (LADA), Maturity Onset Diabetes of the Young (MODY), Brittle, Double Diabetes, Type 3, Steroid Induced, Secondary and Diabetes Insipidus.  

What Is Diabetes?
What Is Diabetes?


  • National Kidney Foundation. K/DOQI clinical practice guidelines for chronic kidney disease: evaluation, classification, and stratification. Am J Kidney Dis. 2002 Feb;39(2 Suppl 1):S1–266.

  • Levey AS, Stevens LA, Schmid CH, Zhang YL, Castro AF 3rd, Feldman HI, Kusek JW, Eggers P, Van Lente F, Greene T, Coresh J; CKD-EPI (Chronic Kidney Disease Epidemiology Collaboration). A new equation to estimate glomerular filtration rate. Ann Intern Med. 2009 May 5;150(9):604–12.

  • National Institutes of Health. 2019 US Renal Data System Annual Data Report: Epidemiology of Kidney Disease in the United States. Bethesda, MD: National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases; 2019.

Diabetes by the Numbers

Roughly 34.2 million people of the U.S. population (10.5%) have diabetes.  Out of that number, approximately 1.4 million have type-1 diabetes and the remaining 32.8 million have one of the other eleven kinds of diabetes.  Type-2 diabetes is the most common and is the most talked about across the U.S.

The number of people having diabetes continues to increase every year.  Approximately 40,000 people are diagnosed as type-1 and 1.4 million as diagnosed as type-2.  It is projected that by 2030, the diagnosis of diabetes could increase by 54%.  

The bar chart shows the prevalence of diabetes amongst race/ethnicities. Prevalence of diagnosed diabetes was highest among American Indians/Alaska Natives (14.7%), people of Hispanic origin (12.5%), and non-Hispanic blacks (11.7%), followed by non-Hispanic Asians (9.2%) and non-Hispanic whites (7.5%).

Diabetes Support Network is rural Colorado’s #1 diabetes resource.