Overview: What is diabetes?

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What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a serious, chronic disease in which your body does not use glucose (sugar) normally. Glucose comes mostly from the carbohydrates (starches and simple sugars) that we eat. Insulin, a hormone made by your pancreas, helps move the glucose into your cells so you have the energy you need. And incretin hormones help keep the whole process in balance.

With diabetes, the glucose can’t enter your cells for energy and it builds up in your blood stream to levels that are above normal. Glucose levels that are very high can cause immediate problems that sometimes can become life-threatening. In addition, when your blood glucose levels are above normal they can cause silent damage to your circulation, nerves and various organs. 

There are a variety of treatments to lower blood glucose levels to healthier targets. These treatments differ depending upon the type of diabetes you have and how long you have had it. Two methods that are always used are balanced meal planning and physical activity. Other treatments that are often used include oral medications, insulin and incretin medicines.

Regular blood glucose monitoring is very important to make sure whatever treatment you are using is helping you meet blood glucose targets. The immediate information you gain as well as the pattern of glucose levels over time can help you and your doctor make the best decisions as to whether or not treatment changes are needed. Those who don’t test regularly risk not knowing when their blood glucose levels are above target and are causing silent damage.

Another very important way to tell how your diabetes is doing is with a blood test called a Hemoglobin A1C (HgbA1C or A1C). It is drawn from your arm every three months to give an average of your blood glucose control over the previous three months


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