Diabetes prevents the body from producing or properly using insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps convert sugar (or glucose) into the energy that the body's cells needs. Insulin serves as a kind of key that unlocks the cells and lets in the glucose--something all cells need to function.
When glucose can't get into the cells, a person's blood sugar becomes higher than normal. When the blood sugar level is not controlled over time, potentially serious complications can develop.
Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are the two primary forms of diabetes, which affects millions of Americans.
Type 2 is the most common form; it occurs in about 90 percent of those persons who develop diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune disease, where the body actually attacks itself. In this case, the body destroys islet cells in the pancreas that make insulin. Only 10 percent of those who have diabetes have Type 1. Those who have it are young; the condition begins around the time of puberty. People with Type 1 need to give themselves insulin injections.
Type 2 diabetes is increasing among adults, and is now occasionally found in children due to unhealthy lifestyles, such as lack of exercise and poor eating habits. Type 2 diabetes usually develops and is diagnosed in people over the age of 40. Most people with the Type 2 form do not need to have insulin injections.