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Diabetes is a medical condition where the blood sugar, also known as blood glucose, is too high. An important hormone called insulin, created in our pancreas, keeps our blood glucose within normal range. Insulin does this by helping glucose cross into our cells so that our cells can use glucose for energy.

What are the different types of diabetes?

People with type 1 diabetes are not able to make insulin in their pancreas. Although previously thought to be a childhood disease, type 1 diabetes can be diagnosed at any time in a person’s life.

People with type 2 diabetes, the most common form of diabetes, do not use insulin properly. This is due to lowered insulin sensitivity and the pancreas not making enough insulin to keep blood glucose within normal range.

Gestational diabetes occurs when pregnant women who have never had diabetes before have high blood glucose (sugar) levels during pregnancy. This happens when the body is not able to make and use all the insulin it needs for pregnancy and occurs in about 9 percent of pregnant women in the U.S.

What are the symptoms of diabetes?

High blood glucose is the common factor of all types of diabetes. High blood glucose can cause frequent urination, feeling very thirsty or hungry, extreme fatigue, blurry vision, or cuts that are slow to heal. If you or someone you know reports these symptoms, it is important to test your blood sugar as early detection can lower the risk of developing serious complications from diabetes.

What are some complications of diabetes?

Years of uncontrolled high blood glucose can lead to complications. The good news is that we can prevent many of these complications through proper management of diabetes. However, diabetes can increase your risk for heart, kidney, eye, and nerve problems.

Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is a medical emergency that requires immediate attention. This happens when we do not having enough insulin, and our body breaks down fat for energy which produces ketones. Dangerously high levels of ketones can lead to diabetic coma or death. Although DKA may happen to anyone with diabetes, it is less common in those with type 2 diabetes.

Symptoms of DKA include thirst, frequent urination, high blood sugar numbers, high levels of ketones in the urine, fruity odor or breath, confusion, vomiting, or constantly feeling tired. You can detect ketones with a simple urine test which you can get at your local pharmacy.

How do we manage diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes is managed with insulin, which is injected under the skin of the abdomen or upper thighs. Insulin pumps may be an option for people with type 1 diabetes, as they eliminate individual insulin injections and reduce severe low blood glucose.

Type 2 diabetes is managed with oral medications and/or insulin. Many times, people with type 2 diabetes start with oral medications and may progress to requiring insulin.

There are many treatment options to help maintain normal blood glucose levels, however there is currently no cure for diabetes. We can help slow the progression of diabetes through healthy diet and physical activity.

Why monitor blood glucose?

Blood glucose is an essential measure of your health. Many foods break down into blood glucose is used for energy to fuel our brain, heart, and muscles. Blood glucose usually comes from the food we eat or is made by the liver. It’s usually found in two places; in the blood stream as it is carried to all of our organs and cells, and inside the cell where it is changed into energy.

Click here for more information on glucose monitoring.

Am I at risk for diabetes?

Age, race, history of gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, family history, weight, and physical activity are all risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes. The good news is you can prevent or delay type 2 diabetes by staying at a healthy weight, eating healthy, and being physically active.

Check out your risk by taking this quick assessment.

How can I be tested for diabetes?

Visit your physician’s office or a community health event, or your local pharmacy to test your blood glucose level. This is done through a simple finger stick and requires a small drop of blood to determine your blood’s glucose level.

The A1C is another test used to measure your average blood glucose for the past 3 months. Blood glucose varies throughout the day based on when you are eating and your activity level. Diabetes is diagnosed at an A1C greater than or equal to 6.5 percent.

Where can I learn more?

Check out the American Diabetes Association website for more information about diabetes.

You can also talk with your health care provider, including your physician, pharmacist, nurse, and more, to answer all your questions.

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Article by:

Laura Nice, PharmD

Laura Nice, PharmD is a first-year pharmacy resident at UofL Hospital. As a recent graduate of Northeast Ohio Medical University College of Pharmacy in Rootstown, Ohio, she is completing post-graduate training to gain additional experience as a clinical pharmacist. Dr. Nice is spending time in both the outpatient and inpatient setting to gain a well-rounded foundation for a career in pharmacy practice. She has spent time in the diabetes medication therapy management (MTM) program at UofL Hospital where she has enjoyed working with patients to increase their knowledge of diabetes and assisting them in creating goals to live a healthy lifestyle.

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