Health Library

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic condition that develops when the body no longer produces enough insulin or the insulin it makes does not work effectively. Insulin is a hormone made by an organ called the pancreas, located near the stomach.

What Is Glucose and Why Is It Important?

The main source of energy for all cells in the body is glucose. One way the body gets glucose is from eating foods containing carbohydrates.

  • The food you eat is made up of fats, proteins and carbohydrates. The food goes into your stomach and is digested.
  • During digestion, the body breaks down the carbohydrates into glucose. This glucose enters the bloodstream.
  • The rise in blood glucose causes the pancreas to release insulin into the bloodstream.
  • Insulin and glucose travel in the bloodstream to the cells. Insulin acts as a “key” to allow glucose into the cell. Cells use glucose for energy.

Diabetes changes how the body works:

  • Without insulin or enough insulin, glucose cannot move out of the blood and into the cells.
  • Glucose then builds up in the blood and the body cannot use it for energy. This results in hyperglycemia.

What Are Common Signs and Symptoms of Diabetes?

  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Unexpected bedwetting
  • Increased hunger
  • Weight loss
  • Feeling tired
  • Blurred vision

What Are the Main Types of Diabetes?

There are two main types of diabetes. Children and teens can develop either type 1 or type 2 diabetes.

Type 1 Diabetes  

Type 2 Diabetes  

The pancreas stops making insulin.

The pancreas produces insulin, but the body’s cells cannot use the insulin properly. 

Treatment must include daily insulin.

Treatment always includes diet and exercise. Medicines are often used (insulin and / or oral medicines).

Makes up about 10 percent of all cases of diabetes. More common in children.

Makes up about 90 percent of all cases of diabetes. More common in adults.

Most of the time there is no family history.

Most of the time there is a family history.

Diabetes can be controlled. With proper management, your child can lead a healthy and active life.

What Are Diabetes Facts?

  • Diabetes is not caused by eating too much sugar.
  • There is nothing you can do to prevent type 1 diabetes.
  • Weight loss, exercise and healthy eating may prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes.
  • With proper care, someone with diabetes can be as healthy as someone without diabetes.

Related Topics

Last Updated 12/2021

Reviewed By Alesia Flynn
Contact us.

We are ranked #1 in the nation (tie) for diabetes and endocrinology in U.S. News & World Report’s Best Children’s Hospitals 2023-24 rankings.

Request an Appointment