Interesting Facts About Diabetes: What You Should Know 

Among the saddest facts about diabetes is that it is estimated that approximately 37.3 million people in the United States have diabetes. This is over 11 percent of the American population. There are many interesting facts about diabetes that can help every single one of those Americans live a healthier and more improved quality of life. There are two kinds of diabetes, Type 1 diabetes and Type 2 diabetes.

Both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are very similar when it comes to the cause of the health problem. That is related to insulin and blood sugar levels. However, they are both very different when it comes to the onset and complications as a result of diabetes. Use this guide to learn interesting facts about Type 1 diabetes and interesting facts about Type 2 diabetes.

Causes of Diabetes

Diabetes is the result of many different factors that could contribute to insulin resistance. Insulin resistance occurs when the body is not able to use insulin productively. This results in many health problems that start with chronic thirst, excessive urination, and changes in energy levels. The most common causes of diabetes are:

  • Genetics – Family history of diabetes
  • Lifestyle factors – poor diet, obesity, lack of exercise
  • Medical conditions – Pregnancy can cause gestational diabetes

In the end, with any type of diabetes, the main cause is the body attacking itself. It is an autoimmune condition of sorts where the body stops producing insulin. This creates a significant problem.

The pancreas is the organ in the body that produces insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps to keep your blood sugar levels regulated. Insulin sends safe blood sugar levels to every part of your body so that your organs can function and you can have a successful day. When you eat, your body breaks down the food enzymes into blood glucose.

That glucose enters the bloodstream and sends a signal to your pancreas to launch insulin production. If you have diabetes, you are either insulin resistant or can not produce it at all. For some types of diabetes, insulin injections are required to provide synthetic insulin to people that can not produce insulin on their own.

Types of Diabetes

Among the most interesting facts about diabetes is that there are different types. Each of the types of diabetes has the same foundation that begins with insulin resistance and results in diabetes. However, every type of diabetes comes with its own unique set of complications.

The three types of diabetes are:

  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Gestational diabetes

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is also colloquially known as juvenile diabetes, as its onset typically occurs when the patient is very young. However, any age can develop Type 1 diabetes. Here, the body stops making insulin altogether.

The most common cause of Type 1 diabetes is that it happens when the immune system begins to destroy insulin-creating cells inside the pancreas. This can be caused by a number of different things such as a genetic predisposition to diabetes, or an environmental trigger such as a virus.

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes occurs later in life, typically by the age of 40 years old. The most common cause of Type 2 diabetes is lifestyle. When an individual is overweight and not active in their life, they may be more susceptible to Type 2 diabetes.

A person that is not physically active and has excess weight is more likely to be diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes than someone who is not. When there is extra weight in the body, the body can develop a resistance to insulin that can confirm the presence of Type 2 diabetes. If the additional weight is around the abdomen, the risk of Type 2 diabetes will increase.

Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes occurs when a pregnant woman needs to use her own glucose levels and insulin production to nurture a developing human. This type of diabetes will only occur during pregnancy. As the hormones in the body fluctuate during pregnancy, so do insulin levels.

Specifically, the hormones in the placenta can result in insulin resistance that develops into gestational diabetes. The additional weight that is taken on during pregnancy will also contribute to the development of gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes is not a lifelong condition and will balance itself out after pregnancy.

Symptoms of Diabetes

The symptoms of diabetes are a function of the levels of your blood sugar. When your blood sugar dips, the low blood sugar will cause a number of symptoms. If you have not been diagnosed with diabetes, these symptoms will be the early signs of diabetes.

The most common early signs of diabetes include:

  • Excessive thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Sudden weight loss without dietary or lifestyle changes
  • ‘Lethargy and low energy levels
  • Blurred vision
  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Wounds that take a long time to heal
  • Chronic infections

As the disease progresses, there are other signs of diabetes. Neuropathy in the feet and hands is common, as the limbs begin to lose sensation. This can be both painful and numbing at the same time, as is the case with any nerve damage. Eye problems such as blurred vision and even vision loss can occur later in life with diabetes.

Diagnosing Diabetes

Diabetes is going to be diagnosed by bloodwork. That is because blood sugar levels are the way that diabetes is diagnosed. There are different kinds of blood tests when diagnosing diabetes.

  • A1C test
  • Random tests
  • Blood test with fasting
  • Glucose tolerance tests

The A1C Test

The A1C test for diabetics is a test that does not require fasting. The A1C blood test is a test that will indicate your blood sugars for the past several months. In this test, a percentage of blood sugar connected to your blood hemoglobin is measured. This is also known as the glycated hemoglobin test.

With diabetics, if these levels are higher than 6.5 percent, the diabetic diagnosis is formed. For people with 5.7 percent and 6.4 percent, prediabetes will be indicated. People with normal blood sugar levels will have an A1C percentage that is below 5.7 percent.

Random Blood Tests

Random blood tests to check sugar levels happen every day for the millions of people that have diabetes. In these tests, you are looking for blood sugar levels that are below 11.1 millimoles per liter.

Doctors also want to see what happens with blood sugars when fasting for people that may have diabetes. A fasting blood test is one where you don’t eat for several hours or past midnight on the day of your testing. You should have a fasting blood sugar level of 5.6 millimoles per liter or lower if you do not have diabetes. Anything higher will result in a diabetes diagnosis.

A glucose tolerance test is another kind of fasting blood test. In this test, you don’t eat past midnight. Prior to the test, you will drink a liquid. You will then have your blood tested regularly over the next few hours. In this test, you want your blood sugar to be lower than 7.8 millimoles per liter.

Once a diabetes diagnosis is formed, you and your doctor will work on treating the diabetes.

Treating Diabetes

The treatment of diabetes is all about maintaining blood sugar levels in a healthy range. That can be managed with medication, insulin, and lifestyle changes.


The medication that is used to treat diabetes is used to maintain blood sugar levels. When lifestyle changes are not enough to manage your diabetes, you may be prescribed medication. The most common medication ordered for diabetics is Metformin, a common medication prescribed for people with Type 2 diabetes.

This medication will block the enzymes that break down the food that you eat. This slows the absorption of the food enzymes into the blood. In turn, your blood becomes less resistant to insulin and insulin production.

In some cases, inhibitor medication is used to help keep the kidneys healthy. When this happens, the medication will prevent the kidneys from absorbing too much blood sugar. When there is excess blood sugar, it will be excreted by the human body.

Insulin Therapy

Insulin therapy is among the most common treatments for diabetes, particularly Type 1 diabetes. Still, people with Type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes may need insulin therapy. There are several different kinds of insulin therapy:

  • Short-acting insulin
  • Rapid-acting insulin
  • Long-acting insulin

Insulin needs to be injected because the stomach will interfere with insulin production and resistance. It must enter the bloodstream directly. Insulin pumps are also used for the treatment of diabetes.

Lifestyle Changes

Lifestyle changes are always going to be recommended when there is a diagnosis of diabetes. That is because the management of blood sugar levels is critical to the survival of people diagnosed with any type of diabetes. You can manage your blood sugars with lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise.

Healthy eating that is low in sugar, starches, and carbohydrates is critical to the maintenance of diabetes. There are many resources from your doctor and in the community that can help you to develop nutritional guidelines that work in your life. Exercise and physical activity is another important component of maintaining blood sugars.

Diabetic Diet

Many organizations, such as the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), have planned nutritional guidelines that can help you to eat right when you have diabetes. The key here in every diet for people with diabetes is to manage and monitor your blood sugar levels. This management of your blood sugar will keep you healthy.

Key recommendations for a diabetic diet include the following:

  • Non-starchy vegetables – If it’s green, like broccoli, you’re on the right track!
  • Cut out refined sugars – Candy, white bread, reduce rice and pasta consumption
  • Cook more, and buy processed food less.

You need to avoid refined sugars or anything that has candy, chocolate, and white sugar as key ingredients. You may hear of the plate method when it comes to diabetes management. In this method, you fill half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables, one-quarter of your plate with carbs, and one-quarter of your plate with protein such as meat or an alternative.

Dietary needs are something that people with diabetes never stop thinking about. When you go out to eat, eat less and take the rest of your food home. Make smaller snacks when you are eating throughout the day, and drink things that have low sugar content or sugar alternatives in them.

Exercise and Diabetes

When you exercise regularly, your body becomes more receptive to insulin production. That is because when energy is converted from blood glucose to help you to take that walk or run, the body craves replacement energy. That is why you are always so hungry after a big workout or heavy exercise.

Exercise is important for diabetics for so many different reasons. In addition to helping you manage your blood sugar, it will also help you to alleviate some of your diabetic symptoms. You will have more energy, experience improved sleep, and feel better overall.

Exercise also helps you to reduce your risk of heart disease and nerve damage which are two complications of diabetes. That is because it helps to keep your cardiovascular system running smoothly, and sends blood to every part of the body. This will decrease or minimize your risk of certain neuropathies.

Diabetic Complications

The complications that could happen with diabetes are among the most interesting facts about diabetes. There are many lifelong issues that you could experience if you have diabetes. How you manage your diabetes may have nothing to do with whether or not you experience these complications.

These complications can just happen because you have diabetes:

  • Heart disease – Blood sugar changes impact cardiovascular function and increase your risk of stroke or heart attack.
  • Nerve damage – You will see this in the extremities, specifically in the feet or hands. High blood sugar levels damage the walls of your blood vessels resulting in neuropathy.
  • Kidney damage
  • Eye problems and blindness
  • Skin or mouth issues such as sores or excessively dry skin
  • Hearing problems or impairment
  • Depression
  • Alzheimer’s disease – This risk or risk of any kind of dementia is increased in people with Type 2 diabetes.

In some cases, these complications can be prevented with lifestyle changes that become a permanent way of life. In others, these complications are sadly unavoidable.

Manage Diabetes Safely

A diabetes diagnosis can be a scary experience, and a sad one if you think your entire life is going to have to change. It will. But it doesn’t have to be as bad as it feels. Learn how to manage diabetes safely. Among the most interesting facts about diabetes is that it is not a death sentence. You can manage it, and live a wonderful quality of life as you do.

Sean Byers, MD

Sean Byers, MD

Sean Byers is currently a Resident in the Internal Medicine program at UTMB. He studied at the University of Queensland School of Medicine as well as received his Master’s in Public Health with a focus in epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Southern California. His background is in biology, computer science, public health, and internal medicine.

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