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What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a lifelong disease that makes it hard for your body to get energy from the food you eat. This problem is closely tied to how your body makes and uses a hormone called insulin. In people with type 1 diabetes, the body has stopped making insulin. In people with type 2 diabetes, either the body can’t use insulin very well, or it doesn’t make enough insulin, or both.
Regardless of the type of diabetes you have, the net result is the same: trouble controlling the amount of glucose (sugar) in your bloodstream.
What it means for your health
Even if you feel fine, diabetes affects your health. That’s because when you have diabetes, you tend to have too much glucose in your bloodstream. From time to time, you may also have too little blood glucose.
Uncontrolled blood glucose levels can cause serious short-term and long-term health problems. Some of these problems you may have already experienced as symptoms, such as fatigue or thirst. Other possible problems related to diabetes—such as heart, kidney, and eye disease—may develop later. Controlling your blood glucose can lower your risk of these problems.
How diabetes is treated
Treating your diabetes means controlling your blood glucose. It also means treating any other health problems you may have, such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol. This is a day-in, day-out responsibility—and it’s largely up to you. That’s why you’ll see a lot of emphasis on “self-management.”
Self-management requires working with healthcare providers and making changes in your lifestyle and daily routines. These changes will affect many different areas of your life, from the food you put on your plate to the steps you take to monitor your health. And if this sounds overwhelming, don’t worry. In the coming days and weeks, you’ll have a chance to gain all the information and skills you need.
Who can help you?
Although you have a lot of responsibility for managing your health, you won’t have to go it alone. A variety of healthcare providers—doctors, nurses, diabetes educators, dietitians, and others— can help. Working with you as a team, they can provide ongoing education and support to help you live a healthy life with diabetes.
As you work with these professionals, keep in mind that YOU are the most important person on your care team! To manage your diabetes, you’ll need to learn as much as you can about diabetes and communicate with your care team regularly. You’ll also need to follow your treatment plan, and involve other people—such as your family and friends—to support you.
For more information about Diabetes, as well as possible treatment options, download a printer friendly version of our Diabetes Fact Sheet.
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The content presented here is for your information only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, and it should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns. More health information is available at www.intermountainhealthcare.org.