What is diabetes?

Learn about the different types of diabetes

Sansum Diabetes Research Institute - father and son on a beach

Type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes, formerly known as juvenile diabetes, is an autoimmune disease in which insulin producing beta cells in the pancreas are mistakenly destroyed by the body’s immune system. Without insulin, our bodies cannot use the glucose in our bloodstream and convert it into energy. When this happens, it causes people to experience Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA).

Type 1 diabetes is not preventable or curable, and while its cause is unknown studies suggest that there is often a genetic component combined with an environemntal tirgger. People with type 1 diabetes are dependent on injected or pumped insulin to survive.

Symptoms of type 1 diabetes

There are many signs or symptoms that can occur suddenly and include:

  • Excessive thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Exhaustion
  • Bed-wetting in children who previously didn’t wet the bed during the night
  • Irritability and other mood changes
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Blurred vision

Consult your doctor immediately  if you notice any of the above signs and symptoms in you or your child.

Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes (T2D) is often diagnosed later in life and can be due to genetic predisposition or behavior. T2D is a metabolic disorder in which a person’s body still produces insulin but is unable to use it effectively. It can be managed with diet and exercise or medication. More serious cases may require insulin therapy.

Though they share the name diabetes, the two diseases are quite different.

To find out if you are at risk for type 2 diabetes, click below to take a diabetes risk test.

Gestational diabetes

Gestational diabetes develops during pregnancy (gestation). Like other types of diabetes, gestational diabetes affects how your cells use sugar (glucose). Gestational diabetes causes high blood sugar that can affect your pregnancy and your baby’s health.

​In gestational diabetes, blood sugar usually returns to normal soon after delivery. But if you’ve had gestational diabetes, you’re at risk for type 2 diabetes. You’ll continue working with your health care team to monitor and manage your blood sugar.


Prediabetes is a serious health condition where blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough yet to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes. Approximately 84 million American adults – more than 1 in 3 – are estimated to have prediabetes, and 90% do not know they have it. If left unmanaged, people with prediabetes may develop type 2 diabetes within 3 years. Prediabetes puts you at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.