What is Diabetes?

During your lifetime, you or someone you know is likely to get diabetes mellitus, better known as diabetes. Diabetes is found when the sugar in your blood is too high. It happens when something goes wrong with the way your body uses the food you eat. The results can be very dangerous.

Your body breaks down food into sugar, fat, and protein. Your body uses sugar for energy. A hormone called insulin helps your body turn sugar into energy. Insulin is made in the pancreas, which is located near your stomach. When you eat, your pancreas is supposed to make the right amount of insulin to move the sugar from your blood into your body’s cells. When you have diabetes, you have no insulin or not enough insulin, or your body does not respond to the insulin it makes. The sugar stays in your blood. When too much sugar builds up in your blood and reaches a certain level, you have diabetes.

Diabetes is a serious, lifelong illness. It can cause heart and blood vessel disease, blindness, kidney failure, nerve damage, teeth and gum problems, and toe, foot or leg amputations. You can prevent or delay diabetes and its complications by taking these steps:

  • See your doctor regularly to monitor for signs of diabetes.
  • Follow your doctor's advice.
  • Learn how to control your diabetes.
  • Do your best to control your diabetes.

Everyone, including people with diabetes, should eat a healthy diet and stay active in body and mind. There is no cure for diabetes, but you can manage your diabetes and live a healthy life.

Almost 26 million people in the United States have diabetes, and it is the seventh-leading cause of death. South Carolina ranks tenth-highest of the 50 states in diagnosed diabetes.

Because so many people have diabetes, and because it affects so many different parts of their bodies, diabetes costs our health care systems a lot. The American Diabetes Association estimates that the direct medical costs of diabetes total over $44 billion each year in the United States. Add the costs due to disability, missed work, and early death and the total more than doubles to $98 billion each year.

Diabetes causes more than 10% of all hospital stays in the United States. The yearly cost for hospital and emergency room care for South Carolina's patients with diabetes is around $928 million.

To learn more:

American Diabetes Association
This site has all kinds of information about diabetes. For a good introduction to the disease and how people live with it, select Newly Diagnosed? from the menu on the right. This takes you to the Diabetes Learning Center. Click on one of the large blue buttons in the center of the page. Select THE CHANNEL to view information in English or EL CANAL for Spanish. Explore other parts of the site for good information that will help you understand diabetes.
Links to sites which have been reviewed by medical librarians at the National Library of Medicine.
(National Institutes of Health)
This Web site is a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. The site provides a wealth of information about diabetes, beginning with the basics. It also has sections on statistics, clinical trials, other resources, publications, and resources in Spanish.
Diabetes Prevention & Control
(South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC))
This web site has general information on diabetes along with data and resources specific to each county and region of South Carolina.
Phone: 803.545.4471

next » What causes diabetes?

Written by: Barbara Carlson, M.L.S.
Last Modified: Monday November 04, 2019 11:19 AM