Diabetes-At A Glance

The Disease
Diabetes is a disease in which the body has a shortage of insulin, a decreased ability to use insulin, or both. Insulin is a hormone that allows glucose (sugar) to enter cells and be converted to energy. When diabetes is not controlled, glucose and fats remain in the blood and, over time, damage vital organs.

Type 1 diabetes usually is first diagnosed in children and young adults, although it can occur at any age. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that may be caused by genetic, environmental, or other factors. It accounts for about 5% of diabetes cases. There is no known way to prevent it, and effective treatment requires the use of insulin.
Type 2 diabetes accounts for 90%–95% of diabetes cases and is usually associated with older age, obesity and physical inactivity, family history of type 2 diabetes, or a personal history of gestational diabetes. Diabetes rates vary by race and ethnicity, with American Indian, Alaska Native, African American, Hispanic/Latino, and Asian/Pacific Islander adults about twice as likely as white adults to have type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes can be prevented through healthy food choices, physical activity, and weight loss. It can be controlled with these same activities, but insulin or oral medication also may be necessary.

Gestational diabetes is a form of glucose intolerance that is diagnosed during pregnancy. Gestational diabetes occurs more often in African American, Hispanic/Latino, and American Indian women, as well as in women who are obese or have a family history of type 2 diabetes. It requires treatment to bring maternal blood glucose to normal levels and avoid complications in the infant.

Other types of diabetes result from specific genetic conditions (such as maturity-onset diabetes of youth), surgery, medications, infections, pancreatic disease, and other illnesses. Other types of diabetes account for less than 5% of all diagnosed cases.

Diabetes Is Common, Disabling, and Deadly

  • 25.8 million people in the United States (8.3% of the population) have diabetes. Of these, 7.0 million have undiagnosed diabetes.
  • In 2010, about 1.9 million new cases of diabetes were diagnosed in people aged 20 years or older.
  • If current trends continue, 1 of 3 U.S. adults will have diabetes by 2050.
  • Among adults, diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness, kidney failure, and amputations of feet and legs not related to accidents or injury.
  • Diabetes was the seventh leading cause of death listed on U.S. death certificates in 2007.
  • A person with diabetes has a shorter life expectancy and about twice the risk of dying on any given dayas a person of similar age without diabetes.

The Financial Cost

  • Total costs (direct and indirect) of diabetes in 2007: $174 billion.
  • Direct medical costs in 2007: $116 billion.
  • Indirect costs (related to disability, work loss, premature death) in 2007: $58 billion.
  • On average, medical expenses for a person with diagnosed diabetes are more than twice as much as the expenses of a person without diabetes.

Diabetes Is Preventable and Controllable

Preventing Type 2 Diabetes
People with prediabetes are at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Their blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be classified as diabetes. An estimated 79 million U.S. adults had prediabetes in 2010. Group support programs that help people with prediabetes develop better eating habits, improve their coping skills, and increase their physical activity level have been proven to be effective.
People with prediabetes who lose 5%–7% of body weight and get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate physical activity can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 58%.

Controlling Diabetes
Disability and premature death are not inevitable consequences of diabetes. Physical activity and dietary interventions, self-management training, ongoing support, and, when necessary, medications can help control the effects of diabetes. By working with a support network and health care providers, a person with diabetes can prevent premature death and disability.

For example,

  • Reducing A1c (a measure of blood glucose control) by one percentage point can reduce the risk of eye, kidney, and nerve diseases by 40%.
  • Controlling blood pressure can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke by 33%–50% and the risk of eye, kidney, and nerve diseases by 33%.
  • Improving control of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol can reduce cardiovascular complications by 20%–50%. Treating diabetic eye disease with laser therapy can reduce the risk of loss of eyesight by 50%–60%.
  • Accessing comprehensive foot care programs can reduce amputation rates by 45%–85%.

Important Achievements in Diabetes Control
On average, people with diabetes are living longer. Public health efforts designed to prevent and control this disease have played a role in reducing

  • Hospitalization rates related to diabetes and hospitalization rates for cardiovascular disease among people with diabetes.
  • Percentage of adults with diabetes who report visual impairment.
  • Rate of new cases of diabetes-related kidney failure.