The Basics of Diabetes

29.1 million people have diabetes, about 1 out of 11 people. Diabetes can cause health problems, such as heart disease and blindness. It also can cause the kidneys to stop working, and loss of one or both legs, feet or toes. Every five minutes, 2 people die of something linked to diabetes and 14 adults find out they have diabetes. 

 WHAT IS DIABETES? It is a disease where blood sugar (glucose) levels are above normal.

Most of the food we eat is turned into sugar for our bodies to use for energy. The pancreas, an organ near the stomach, makes a hormone called insulin. Insulin helps the glucose get to the cells of our bodies. When you have diabetes, one of two things happens. Your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use the insulin as well as it should. 

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF DIABETES? People who think they may have diabetes must visit their doctor. They might have some of these signs:

 Going to the bathroom often

  • Being overly thirsty
  • Losing weight without trying
  • More hungry than normal
  • Sudden changes in eyesight
  • Tingling or numbness in hands or feet
  • Feeling very tired much of the time
  • Very dry skin
  • Sores that are slow to heal
  • More infections than normal

 Sometimes a person may have nausea, vomiting, or stomach pains. You may have diabetes and not show any of the above signs too. 


 Type 1 Diabetes - Your pancreas doesn’t make insulin, a hormone needed to change the sugar, starches and other food you eat into energy. To survive, people with Type 1 diabetes must have insulin daily either by shots or a pump.

Type 2 Diabetes - Either your pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin or your body’s cells don’t react to it in the right way. Sugar from the food you eat builds up in your blood stream. If not controlled, this can cause harm to your eyes, nerves, feet and kidneys. 

Prediabetes is a higher than normal blood sugar level. It is not quite high enough to be labeled as diabetes. One in three American adults has prediabetes, and most do not know they have it. This is why it is vital to visit your doctor on a routine basis. 

Gestational Diabetes  happens only during pregnancy. Too much glucose in the blood is not good for pregnant women or their babies.

You are at a greater risk for having prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes if you:

  • Are 45 years of age or older
  • Weigh more than you should for your height and body build
  • Have a family history of Type 2 diabetes
  • Are active less than three times per week
  • Ever gave birth to a baby that weighed more than 9 pounds
  • Ever had diabetes while pregnant (gestational diabetes)


 Healthy eating, staying active, and insulin shots are the main ways to treat Type 1 diabetes. The amount of insulin taken needs to work with the amount of food eaten and daily activity. Blood sugar levels need to be closely watched and tested often.

 Healthy eating, physical activity, and blood sugar testing are ways to manage Type 2 diabetes. Many people with Type 2 diabetes also might need pills, insulin shots, or both to control their blood sugar levels.

 A number of studies have shown that staying active can greatly lower the risk of getting Type 2 diabetes. Make healthy changes now to stop Type 2 diabetes. 

 The Diabetes Prevention Program is offered throughout the Four Corners District. This year long class is for people who are pre-diabetic or at risk for getting diabetes. It helps them lessen the chance of getting this disease, or to not get it at all. Call Four Corners to learn more about this class.

 Visit with your doctor to learn more about your health. For information on diabetes and other health topics, call Four Corners Health Department @ 1-877-337-3573. Send email to