“Diabetes” redirects here. For other uses, see Diabetes (disambiguation).
Diabetic patient doing glucose level blood test using ultra mini glucometer and small drop of blood from finger and test strips isolated on a white background. Device shows 115 mg/dL which is normal

Diabetic patient doing glucose level blood test using ultra mini glucometer and small drop of blood from finger and test strips isolated on a white background. Device shows 115 mg/dL which is normal


Diabetes mellitus
Blue circle for diabetes.svg

Universal blue circle symbol for diabetes.[1]
Classification and external resources
Specialty Endocrinology
ICD10 E10E14
ICD9-CM 250
MedlinePlus 001214
eMedicine med/546 emerg/134
Patient UK Diabetes mellitus
MeSH C18.452.394.750

Diabetes mellitus (DM), commonly referred to as diabetes, is a group of metabolic diseases in which there are high blood sugar levels over a prolonged period.[2] Symptoms of high blood sugar include frequent urination, increased thirst, and increased hunger. If left untreated, diabetes can cause many complications.[3] Acute complications include diabetic ketoacidosis and nonketotic hyperosmolar coma.[4] Serious long-term complications include cardiovascular disease, stroke, chronic kidney failure, foot ulcers, and damage to the eyes.[3]

Diabetes is due to either the pancreas not producing enough insulin or the cells of the body not responding properly to the insulin produced.[5] There are three main types of diabetes mellitus:

  • Type 1 DM results from the pancreas’s failure to produce enough insulin. This form was previously referred to as “insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus” (IDDM) or “juvenile diabetes”. The cause is unknown.[3]
  • Type 2 DM begins with insulin resistance, a condition in which cells fail to respond to insulin properly.[3] As the disease progresses a lack of insulin may also develop.[6] This form was previously referred to as “non insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus” (NIDDM) or “adult-onset diabetes”. The primary cause is excessive body weight and not enough exercise.[3]
  • Gestational diabetes, is the third main form and occurs when pregnant women without a previous history of diabetes develop high blood-sugar levels.[3]

Prevention and treatment involve a healthy diet, physical exercise, maintaining a normal body weight, and avoiding use of tobacco. Control of blood pressure and maintaining proper foot care are important for people with the disease. Type 1 DM must be managed with insulin injections.[3] Type 2 DM may be treated with medications with or without insulin.[7] Insulin and some oral medications can cause low blood sugar.[8] Weight loss surgery in those with obesity is sometimes an effective measure in those with type 2 DM.[9] Gestational diabetes usually resolves after the birth of the baby.[10]

As of 2014, an estimated 387 million people have diabetes worldwide,[11] with type 2 DM making up about 90% of the cases.[12][13] This represents 8.3% of the adult population,[13] with equal rates in both women and men.[14] From 2012 to 2014, diabetes is estimated to have resulted in 1.5 to 4.9 million deaths each year.[7][11] Diabetes at least doubles a person’s risk of death.[3] The number of people with diabetes is expected to rise to 592 million by 2035.[11] The global economic cost of diabetes in 2014 was estimated to be $612 billion USD.[15] In the United States, diabetes cost $245 billion in 2012.[16]

Signs and symptoms

Overview of the most significant symptoms of diabetes

The classic symptoms of untreated diabetes are weight loss, polyuria (increased urination), polydipsia (increased thirst), and polyphagia (increased hunger).[17] Symptoms may develop rapidly (weeks or months) in type 1 DM, while they usually develop much more slowly and may be subtle or absent in type 2 DM.

Several other signs and symptoms can mark the onset of diabetes, although they are not specific to the disease. In addition to the known ones above, they include blurry vision, headache, fatigue, slow healing of cuts, and itchy skin. Prolonged high blood glucose can cause glucose absorption in the lens of the eye, which leads to changes in its shape, resulting in vision changes. A number of skin rashes that can occur in diabetes are collectively known as diabetic dermadromes.

Diabetic emergencies

Low blood sugar is common in persons with type 1 and type 2 DM. Most cases are mild and are not considered medical emergencies. Effects can range from feelings of unease, sweating, trembling, and increased appetite in mild cases to more serious issues such as confusion, changes in behavior, seizures, unconsciousness, and (rarely) permanent brain damage or death in severe cases.[18][19] Mild cases are self-treated by eating or drinking something high in sugar. Severe cases can lead to unconsciousness and must be treated with intravenous glucose or injections with glucagon.

People (usually with type 1 DM) may also experience episodes of diabetic ketoacidosis, a metabolic disturbance characterized by nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain, the smell of acetone on the breath, deep breathing known as Kussmaul breathing, and in severe cases a decreased level of consciousness.[20]

A rare but equally severe possibility is hyperosmolar nonketotic state, which is more common in type 2 DM and is mainly the result of dehydration.[20]


All forms of diabetes increase the risk of long-term complications. These typically develop after many years (10–20), but may be the first symptom in those who have otherwise not received a diagnosis before that time.

The major long-term complications relate to damage to blood vessels. Diabetes doubles the risk of cardiovascular disease[21] and about 75% of deaths in diabetics are due to coronary artery disease.[22] Other “macrovascular” diseases are stroke, and peripheral vascular disease.

The primary complications of diabetes due to damage in small blood vessels include damage to the eyes, kidneys, and nerves.[23] Damage to the eyes, known as diabetic retinopathy, is caused by damage to the blood vessels in the retina of the eye, and can result in gradual vision loss and blindness.[23] Damage to the kidneys, known as diabetic nephropathy, can lead to tissue scarring, urine protein loss, and eventually chronic kidney disease, sometimes requiring dialysis or kidney transplant.[23] Damage to the nerves of the body, known as diabetic neuropathy, is the most common complication of diabetes.[23] The symptoms can include numbness, tingling, pain, and altered pain sensation, which can lead to damage to the skin. Diabetes-related foot problems (such as diabetic foot ulcers) may occur, and can be difficult to treat, occasionally requiring amputation. Additionally, proximal diabetic neuropathy causes painful muscle wasting and weakness.

There is a link between cognitive deficit and diabetes. Compared to those without diabetes, those with the disease have a 1.2 to 1.5-fold greater rate of decline in cognitive function.[24]


Comparison of type 1 and 2 diabetes[12]
Feature Type 1 diabetes Type 2 diabetes
Onset Sudden Gradual
Age at onset Mostly in children Mostly in adults
Body size Thin or normal[25] Often obese
Ketoacidosis Common Rare
Autoantibodies Usually present Absent
Endogenous insulin Low or absent Normal, decreased
or increased
in identical twins
50% 90%
Prevalence ~10% ~90%

Diabetes mellitus is classified into four broad categories: type 1, type 2, gestational diabetes, and “other specific types”.[5] The “other specific types” are a collection of a few dozen individual causes.[5] The term “diabetes”, without qualification, usually refers to diabetes mellitus.

Type 1

Type 1 diabetes mellitus is characterized by loss of the insulin-producing beta cells of the islets of Langerhans in the pancreas, leading to insulin deficiency. This type can be further classified as immune-mediated or idiopathic. The majority of type 1 diabetes is of the immune-mediated nature, in which a T-cell-mediated autoimmune attack leads to the loss of beta cells and thus insulin.[26] It causes approximately 10% of diabetes mellitus cases in North America and Europe. Most affected people are otherwise healthy and of a healthy weight when onset occurs. Sensitivity and responsiveness to insulin are usually normal, especially in the early stages. Type 1 diabetes can affect children or adults, but was traditionally termed “juvenile diabetes” because a majority of these diabetes cases were in children.

“Brittle” diabetes, also known as unstable diabetes or labile diabetes, is a term that was traditionally used to describe the dramatic and recurrent swings in glucose levels, often occurring for no apparent reason in insulin-dependent diabetes. This term, however, has no biologic basis and should not be used.[27] Still, type 1 diabetes can be accompanied by irregular and unpredictable high blood sugar levels, frequently with ketosis, and sometimes with serious low blood sugar levels. Other complications include an impaired counterregulatory response to low blood sugar, infection, gastroparesis (which leads to erratic absorption of dietary carbohydrates), and endocrinopathies (e.g., Addison’s disease).[27] These phenomena are believed to occur no more frequently than in 1% to 2% of persons with type 1 diabetes.[28]

Type 1 diabetes is partly inherited, with multiple genes, including certain HLA genotypes, known to influence the risk of diabetes. In genetically susceptible people, the onset of diabetes can be triggered by one or more environmental factors, such as a viral infection or diet. There is some evidence that suggests an association between type 1 DM and Coxsackie B4 virus. Unlike type 2 DM, the onset of type 1 diabetes is unrelated to lifestyle.

Type 2

Type 2 DM is characterized by insulin resistance, which may be combined with relatively reduced insulin secretion.[5] The defective responsiveness of body tissues to insulin is believed to involve the insulin receptor. However, the specific defects are not known. Diabetes mellitus cases due to a known defect are classified separately. Type 2 DM is the most common type of diabetes mellitus.

In the early stage of type 2, the predominant abnormality is reduced insulin sensitivity. At this stage, high blood sugar can be reversed by a variety of measures and medications that improve insulin sensitivity or reduce the liver‘s glucose production.

Type 2 DM is due primarily to lifestyle factors and genetics.[29] A number of lifestyle factors are known to be important to the development of type 2 DM, including obesity (defined by a body mass index of greater than 30), lack of physical activity, poor diet, stress, and urbanization.[12] Excess body fat is associated with 30% of cases in those of Chinese and Japanese descent, 60–80% of cases in those of European and African descent, and 100% of Pima Indians and Pacific Islanders.[5] Even those who are not obese often have a high waist–hip ratio.[5]

Dietary factors also influence the risk of developing type 2 DM. Consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks in excess is associated with an increased risk.[30][31] The type of fats in the diet is also important, with saturated fats and trans fatty acids increasing the risk and polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat decreasing the risk.[29] Eating lots of white rice also may increase the risk of diabetes.[32] A lack of exercise is believed to cause 7% of cases.[33]

Gestational diabetes

Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) resembles type 2 DM in several respects, involving a combination of relatively inadequate insulin secretion and responsiveness. It occurs in about 2–10% of all pregnancies and may improve or disappear after delivery.[34] However, after pregnancy approximately 5–10% of women with gestational diabetes are found to have diabetes mellitus, most commonly type 2.[34] Gestational diabetes is fully treatable, but requires careful medical supervision throughout the pregnancy. Management may include dietary changes, blood glucose monitoring, and in some cases insulin may be required.

Though it may be transient, untreated gestational diabetes can damage the health of the fetus or mother. Risks to the baby include macrosomia (high birth weight), congenital heart and central nervous system abnormalities, and skeletal muscle malformations. Increased levels of insulin in a fetus’s blood may inhibit fetal surfactant production and cause respiratory distress syndrome. A high blood bilirubin level may result from red blood cell destruction. In severe cases, perinatal death may occur, most commonly as a result of poor placental perfusion due to vascular impairment. Labor induction may be indicated with decreased placental function. A Caesarean section may be performed if there is marked fetal distress or an increased risk of injury associated with macrosomia, such as shoulder dystocia.[citation needed]

Other types

Prediabetes indicates a condition that occurs when a person’s blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough for a diagnosis of type 2 DM. Many people destined to develop type 2 DM spend many years in a state of prediabetes.

Latent autoimmune diabetes of adults (LADA) is a condition in which type 1 DM develops in adults. Adults with LADA are frequently initially misdiagnosed as having type 2 DM, based on age rather than etiology.

Some cases of diabetes are caused by the body’s tissue receptors not responding to insulin (even when insulin levels are normal, which is what separates it from type 2 diabetes); this form is very uncommon. Genetic mutations (autosomal or mitochondrial) can lead to defects in beta cell function. Abnormal insulin action may also have been genetically determined in some cases. Any disease that causes extensive damage to the pancreas may lead to diabetes (for example, chronic pancreatitis and cystic fibrosis). Diseases associated with excessive secretion of insulin-antagonistic hormones can cause diabetes (which is typically resolved once the hormone excess is removed). Many drugs impair insulin secretion and some toxins damage pancreatic beta cells. The ICD-10 (1992) diagnostic entity, malnutrition-related diabetes mellitus (MRDM or MMDM, ICD-10 code E12), was deprecated by the World Health Organization when the current taxonomy was introduced in 1999.[35]

Other forms of diabetes mellitus include congenital diabetes, which is due to genetic defects of insulin secretion, cystic fibrosis-related diabetes, steroid diabetes induced by high doses of glucocorticoids, and several forms of monogenic diabetes.

“Type 3 diabetes” has been suggested as a term for Alzheimer’s disease as the underlying processes may involve insulin resistance by the brain.[36]

The following is a comprehensive list of other causes of diabetes:[37]


The fluctuation of blood sugar (red) and the sugar-lowering hormone insulin (blue) in humans during the course of a day with three meals — one of the effects of a sugar-rich vs a starch-rich meal is highlighted.

Mechanism of insulin release in normal pancreatic beta cells — insulin production is more or less constant within the beta cells. Its release is triggered by food, chiefly food containing absorbable glucose.

Insulin is the principal hormone that regulates the uptake of glucose from the blood into most cells of the body, especially liver, muscle, and adipose tissue. Therefore, deficiency of insulin or the insensitivity of its receptors plays a central role in all forms of diabetes mellitus.[39]

The body obtains glucose from three main places: the intestinal absorption of food, the breakdown of glycogen, the storage form of glucose found in the liver, and gluconeogenesis, the generation of glucose from non-carbohydrate substrates in the body.[40] Insulin plays a critical role in balancing glucose levels in the body. Insulin can inhibit the breakdown of glycogen or the process of gluconeogenesis, it can stimulate the transport of glucose into fat and muscle cells, and it can stimulate the storage of glucose in the form of glycogen.[40]

Insulin is released into the blood by beta cells (β-cells), found in the islets of Langerhans in the pancreas, in response to rising levels of blood glucose, typically after eating. Insulin is used by about two-thirds of the body’s cells to absorb glucose from the blood for use as fuel, for conversion to other needed molecules, or for storage. Lower glucose levels result in decreased insulin release from the beta cells and in the breakdown of glycogen to glucose. This process is mainly controlled by the hormone glucagon, which acts in the opposite manner to insulin.[41]

If the amount of insulin available is insufficient, if cells respond poorly to the effects of insulin (insulin insensitivity or insulin resistance), or if the insulin itself is defective, then glucose will not be absorbed properly by the body cells that require it, and it will not be stored appropriately in the liver and muscles. The net effect is persistently high levels of blood glucose, poor protein synthesis, and other metabolic derangements, such as acidosis.[40]

When the glucose concentration in the blood remains high over time, the kidneys will reach a threshold of reabsorption, and glucose will be excreted in the urine (glycosuria).[42] This increases the osmotic pressure of the urine and inhibits reabsorption of water by the kidney, resulting in increased urine production (polyuria) and increased fluid loss. Lost blood volume will be replaced osmotically from water held in body cells and other body compartments, causing dehydration and increased thirst (polydipsia).[40]


WHO diabetes diagnostic criteria[43][44]  edit
Condition 2 hour glucose Fasting glucose HbA1c
Unit mmol/l(mg/dl) mmol/l(mg/dl) mmol/mol DCCT %
Normal <7.8 (<140) <6.1 (<110) <42 <6.0
Impaired fasting glycaemia <7.8 (<140) ≥6.1(≥110) & <7.0(<126) 42-46 6.0–6.4
Impaired glucose tolerance ≥7.8 (≥140) <7.0 (<126) 42-46 6.0–6.4
Diabetes mellitus ≥11.1 (≥200) ≥7.0 (≥126) ≥48 ≥6.5

Diabetes mellitus is characterized by recurrent or persistent high blood sugar, and is diagnosed by demonstrating any one of the following:[35]

  • Fasting plasma glucose level ≥ 7.0 mmol/l (126 mg/dl)
  • Plasma glucose ≥ 11.1 mmol/l (200 mg/dl) two hours after a 75 g oral glucose load as in a glucose tolerance test
  • Symptoms of high blood sugar and casual plasma glucose ≥ 11.1 mmol/l (200 mg/dl)
  • Glycated hemoglobin (HbA1C) ≥ 48 mmol/mol (≥ 6.5 DCCT %).[45]

A positive result, in the absence of unequivocal high blood sugar, should be confirmed by a repeat of any of the above methods on a different day. It is preferable to measure a fasting glucose level because of the ease of measurement and the considerable time commitment of formal glucose tolerance testing, which takes two hours to complete and offers no prognostic advantage over the fasting test.[46] According to the current definition, two fasting glucose measurements above 126 mg/dl (7.0 mmol/l) is considered diagnostic for diabetes mellitus.

Per the World Health Organization people with fasting glucose levels from 6.1 to 6.9 mmol/l (110 to 125 mg/dl) are considered to have impaired fasting glucose.[47] people with plasma glucose at or above 7.8 mmol/l (140 mg/dl), but not over 11.1 mmol/l (200 mg/dl), two hours after a 75 g oral glucose load are considered to have impaired glucose tolerance. Of these two prediabetic states, the latter in particular is a major risk factor for progression to full-blown diabetes mellitus, as well as cardiovascular disease.[48] The American Diabetes Association since 2003 uses a slightly different range for impaired fasting glucose of 5.6 to 6.9 mmol/l (100 to 125 mg/dl).[49]

Glycated hemoglobin is better than fasting glucose for determining risks of cardiovascular disease and death from any cause.[50]

The rare disease diabetes insipidus has similar symptoms to diabetes mellitus, but without disturbances in the sugar metabolism (insipidus means “without taste” in Latin) and does not involve the same disease mechanisms. Diabetes is a part of the wider condition known as metabolic syndrome.


There is no known preventive measure for type 1 diabetes.[3] Type 2 diabetes can often be prevented by a person being a normal body weight, physical exercise, and following a healthful diet.[3] Dietary changes known to be effective in helping to prevent diabetes include a diet rich in whole grains and fiber, and choosing good fats, such as polyunsaturated fats found in nuts, vegetable oils, and fish.[51] Limiting sugary beverages and eating less red meat and other sources of saturated fat can also help in the prevention of diabetes.[51] Active smoking is also associated with an increased risk of diabetes, so smoking cessation can be an important preventive measure as well.[52]



Diabetes mellitus is a chronic disease, for which there is no known cure except in very specific situations.[53] Management concentrates on keeping blood sugar levels as close to normal, without causing low blood sugar. This can usually be accomplished with a healthy diet, exercise, weight loss, and use of appropriate medications (insulin in the case of type 1 diabetes; oral medications, as well as possibly insulin, in type 2 diabetes).

Learning about the disease and actively participating in the treatment is important, since complications are far less common and less severe in people who have well-managed blood sugar levels.[54][55] The goal of treatment is an HbA1C level of 6.5%, but should not be lower than that, and may be set higher.[56] Attention is also paid to other health problems that may accelerate the negative effects of diabetes. These include smoking, elevated cholesterol levels, obesity, high blood pressure, and lack of regular exercise.[56] Specialized footwear is widely used to reduce the risk of ulceration, or re-ulceration, in at-risk diabetic feet. Evidence for the efficacy of this remains equivocal, however.[57]


See also: Diabetic diet

People with diabetes can benefit from education about the disease and treatment, good nutrition to achieve a normal body weight, and exercise, with the goal of keeping both short-term and long-term blood glucose levels within acceptable bounds. In addition, given the associated higher risks of cardiovascular disease, lifestyle modifications are recommended to control blood pressure.[58]


Medications used to treat diabetes do so by lowering blood sugar levels. There are a number of different classes of anti-diabetic medications. Some are available by mouth, such as metformin, while others are only available by injection such as GLP-1 agonists. Type 1 diabetes can only be treated with insulin, typically with a combination of regular and NPH insulin, or synthetic insulin analogs.[citation needed]

Metformin is generally recommended as a first line treatment for type 2 diabetes, as there is good evidence that it decreases mortality.[59] It works by decreasing the liver’s production of glucose.[60] Several other groups of drugs, mostly given by mouth, may also decrease blood sugar in type II DM. These include agents that increase insulin release, agents that decrease absorption of sugar from the intestines, and agents that make the body more sensitive to insulin.[60] When insulin is used in type 2 diabetes, a long-acting formulation is usually added initially, while continuing oral medications.[59] Doses of insulin are then increased to effect.[59][61]

Since cardiovascular disease is a serious complication associated with diabetes, some recommend blood pressure levels below 120/80 mmHg.[62][63] However, evidence supports less than or equal to somewhere between 140/90 mmHg to 160/100 mmHg; the only additional benefit found for blood pressure targets beneath this range was an isolated decrease in stroke risk, and this was accompanied by an increased risk of other serious adverse events.[64][65] Amongst medications that lower blood pressure, angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors (ACEIs) improve outcomes in those with DM while the similar medications angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) do not.[66] Aspirin is also recommended for patient with cardiovascular problems, however routine use of aspirin has not been found to improve outcomes in uncomplicated diabetes.[67]


A pancreas transplant is occasionally considered for people with type 1 diabetes who have severe complications of their disease, including end stage kidney disease requiring kidney transplantation.[68]

Weight loss surgery in those with obesity and type two diabetes is often an effective measure.[69] Many are able to maintain normal blood sugar levels with little or no medications following surgery[70] and long-term mortality is decreased.[71] There however is some short-term mortality risk of less than 1% from the surgery.[72] The body mass index cutoffs for when surgery is appropriate are not yet clear.[71] It is recommended that this option be considered in those who are unable to get both their weight and blood sugar under control.[73]


In countries using a general practitioner system, such as the United Kingdom, care may take place mainly outside hospitals, with hospital-based specialist care used only in case of complications, difficult blood sugar control, or research projects. In other circumstances, general practitioners and specialists share care in a team approach. Home telehealth support can be an effective management technique.[74]


Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diabetes_mellitus


'Diabetes' redirects here. For other uses, see Diabetes (disambiguation).   Diabetes mellitus Universal blue circle symbol for diabetes. Classification and external resources Specialty Endocrinology ICD-10 E10–E14 ICD-9-CM 250 MedlinePlus 001214 eMedicine med/546 emerg/134 Patient UK Diabetes mellitus MeSH C18.452.394.750 Diabetes mellitus (DM), commonly referred to as diabetes, is a group of metabolic diseases in which there are high blood sugar levels over a prolonged period. Symptoms of high...