Diabetes 101

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic metabolic disorder that afflicts over 18 million people in the United States, close to two million of whom have its most severe form, type 1 diabetes (also known as childhood, juvenile or insulin-dependant diabetes).

How Does Type 1 Diabetes Differ from Type 2 Diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes appears suddenly, but the start of the illness can usually be detected with blood tests years prior to onset.  In type 1 diabetes the pancreas ceases to manufacture insulin, a hormone essential for our bodies to convert the food we eat into energy.  People with type 1 diabetes MUST take multiple daily injections of insulin just to stay alive.  But insulin is not a cure.

In type 2 diabetes, the pancreas is still able to manufacture insulin and treatment usually consists of oral medications and a strict diet.

Is Diabetes a Life-threatening Disease?

Diabetes is the fifth leading cause of death by disease in the United States.  The risk for death is twice that of people without the disease.  In the year 2000 diabetes contributed to over 213,000 deaths.

The mortality rate of people with type 1 diabetes increases dramatically after 15 years of disease duration.

About 210,000 people under the age of 20 have diabetes and it is estimated that one out of every three children born today will have diabetes in their lifetime.

Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in people between 20 and 74 years of age.

Is Diabetes Costly?

The cost to the U.S. healthcare system for the medical treatment of diabetes and its complications is in excess of $132 Billion per year.

What are the Complications of Diabetes?

Diabetes mercilessly damages almost every major organ in the body.  Complications can include blindness, kidney failure, heart disease, stroke, amputation, loss of nerve sensation, early tooth loss, high-risk pregnancies and birth defects.


Up to 24,000 Americans lose their sight every year due to diabetes.


Each year over 42,000 Americans begin treatment for end-stage renal disease.


Diabetes can cause arteriosclerosis, which leads to heart disease, gangrene, and loss of extremities and loss of nerve sensation.  Heart disease is the leading cause of death in people with diabetes and the risk of stroke is 2-4 times higher for diabetics.


Diabetic neuropathy leads to severe pain or loss of sensation to extremities.  Intestinal problems may also occur.  Over 80,000 amputations are performed each year on people with diabetes.

What are the Symptoms of Diabetes?

Symptoms of type 1 diabetes include:

  •             Frequent urination
  •             Excessive thirst
  •             Excessive irritability
  •             Extreme hunger accompanied by weight loss
  •             Nausea and vomiting
  •             Weakness and fatigue

Symptoms of type 2 diabetes include any of those listed above and/or:

  •             Tingling or numbness in hands or feet
  •             Recurring or hard-to-heal skin, gum or bladder infections
  •             Blurred vision
  •             Itching

The Children’s Diabetes Foundation at Denver was established by Barbara and Marvin Davis in 1977 as a non-profit organization dedicated solely to the support of research in childhood diabetes and to the provision of the best possible clinical and educational programs for children with this disease.  The Foundation’s mission is to raise funds to support programs at the Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes where over 6,000 children and young adults from all over the world currently receive care.

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