Diabetes—a growing epidemic

There isn’t a cure for diabetes, but it can be controlled. Healthy lifestyle habits, taking medicine as needed, getting diabetes self-management education, and keeping appointments with your healthcare team can greatly reduce its impact on your life.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects how your body turns food into energy. Most of the food you eat is broken down into sugar (also called glucose) and released into your bloodstream. Your pancreas makes insulin, which helps your body use this blood sugar as energy or store it for future use. If you have diabetes, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin, or it can’t use the insulin it makes as well as it should. This means too much blood sugar stays in your bloodstream over time. You can develop serious health problems, such as heart disease, vision loss, and kidney disease.

What types of diabetes are there?

There are three types of diabetes:

Type 1 (T1D), Type 2 (T2D), and gestational diabetes (diabetes while pregnant).

T1D is caused by an autoimmune reaction (where the body attacks itself by mistake). In T1D, the immune system stops your body from making insulin. Usually diagnosed in children, teens, and young adults, T1D affects about five percent of all diabetes patients.

T2D means your body does not use insulin well and is unable to maintain normal blood sugar levels. Nine out of 10 people with diabetes have this type. It develops over years and is usually diagnosed in adults (though increasingly in children, teens, and young adults).

Gestational diabetes develops in pregnant women who have never had diabetes. If you have it, your baby could be at higher risk for health complications.

What are the symptoms and warning signs of diabetes?

Some symptoms and warning signs of diabetes include:

What is prediabetes?

In the United States, more than one in three adults have prediabetes, and 90 percent of them don’t know it. Prediabetes is a serious health condition where blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as full-blown diabetes. It increases your risk for T2D, heart disease, and stroke. See if you're at risk.

Managing diabetes

If you or a loved one has diabetes, we know it can be tough to manage. That’s why it’s important to share the responsibility with your doctor.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ask your doctor to do the following to help you manage your diabetes:

  • Check your feet for sores during every visit, and give a thorough foot exam at least once a year.
  • Give you a Hemoglobin A1C test at least twice a year to determine what your average blood glucose level was for the previous three months.
  • Measure your blood pressure at every visit.
  • Test your blood lipids (fats) at least once a year. This includes total cholesterol, LDL (“bad” cholesterol), HDL (“good” cholesterol), and triglycerides.
  • Test your urine at least once a year to check kidney function.

Between visits, annual eye exams are important. Schedule one if you haven’t already and share your results with your doctor or other health care provider. In fact, be sure to share all other health provider appointment notes and results with the professional helping you manage your diabetes. And don’t forget to take care of your mental health! Diabetes can be a stressful disease. Here are 10 tips for coping with diabetes distress.

Set yourself up for a healthy 2019 by scheduling your annual exam today or asking your provider about these tests at your next visit. (Not all plans cover these tests. If tests are covered, they may be subject to cost-sharing.) If you’re a Capital Blue Cross member and need a doctor or other health provider, use our find a doctor tool.

Facts about diabetes

Diabetes infographic

  • 1 in 11 people have some form of diabetes
  • Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States (and may be underreported).
  • In the last 20 years, the number of adults diagnosed with diabetes has more than doubled as the American population has aged and become more overweight or obese.
  • More than 30 million people in the United States have diabetes, and one in four of them don’t know they have it.
  • More than 84 million US adults—over a third—have prediabetes, and 90 percent of them don’t know they have it.

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Sources: CDC.gov

The information provided is meant for a general audience. Capital Blue Cross and its affiliated companies believe this health education resource provides useful information but does not assume any liability associated with its use.