Diabetes FAQ

Most of the food we eat is turned into glucose, or sugar, for our bodies to use for energy. The pancreas, an organ that lies near the stomach, makes a hormone called insulin to help glucose get into the cells of our bodies. When you have diabetes, your body either doesn't make enough insulin or can't use its own insulin as well as it should. This causes sugars to build up in your blood.

Diabetes can cause serious health complications including heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney failure, and lower-extremity amputations. Diabetes is the fifth leading cause of death in New York City.

What are the symptoms of diabetes?

People who think they might have diabetes must visit a physician for diagnosis. They might have SOME or NONE of the following symptoms:

  • Frequent urination
  • Excessive thirst
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Extreme hunger
  • Sudden vision changes
  • Tingling or numbness in hands or feet
  • Feeling very tired much of the time
  • Dry skin
  • Sores that are slow to heal
  • Frequent and recurrent infections

What are the types and risk factors of diabetes?

  • Type 1 Diabetes, previously called insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus or juvenile-onset diabetes, may account for 5% to 10% of all diagnosed cases of diabetes. Risk factors are less well defined for type 1 diabetes than for type 2 diabetes, it is believed to happen after the body is exposed to an environmental trigger which then causes the body to attack the cells in the pancreas that make insulin.
    Type 2 Diabetes, previously called non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus or adult-onset diabetes, may account for about 90% to 95% of all diagnosed cases of diabetes.
    Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes include:
  • older age (45 years and older)
  • overweight and obesity
  • family history of diabetes
  • history of gestational diabetes
  • history of delivering a baby weighing more than 9 lbs.
  • impaired glucose tolerance
  • physical inactivity
  • race/ethnicity (African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians, and some Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are at particularly high risk for type 2 diabetes.)
  • high blood pressure (140/90 mm Hg)
  • low HDL cholersterol (<35 mg/dl) and elevated triglyceride level (>250 mg/dl)
  • history of cardiovascular disease
  • women with polycystic kidney disease

Learn about Preventing Type 2 Diabetes

  • Gestational Diabetes develops in nearly 5% of live births in New York City but usually goes away when the pregnancy is over. However, women who have had gestational diabetes are at increased risk for later developing type 2 diabetes. Gestational diabetes occurs more frequently in African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians, and people with a family history of diabetes than in other groups. Obesity is also associated with higher risk.

Learn about Gestational Diabetes

What is the treatment for diabetes?

Management strategies should be planned along with a qualified health care team. In addition, quitting smoking is very important for people with diabetes since the majority of people with diabetes die from heart disase and stroke.

  • Treatment of Type 1 Diabetes: Treatment requires a regimen that typically includes a carefully monitored diet, planned physical activity, routine home blood glucose testing, and insulin injections.
  • Treatment of Type 2 Diabetes: Treatment typically includes diet control, regular physical activity, medications taken by mouth or by injection, and for some, routine home blood glucose testing.

Learn about Living with Diabetes

Some of the information on this page has been excerpted from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Additional Resources