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Facts About Diabetes

Back to 2001 Curriculum. 

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease in which the body either fails to produce any insulin (type 1, also called insulin-dependent or juvenile-onset), or the insulin that it does produce is unable to adequately trigger the conversion of food into energy (type 2, also called non-insulin-dependent or adult-onset).

Who has diabetes?

Federal statistics suggest that an estimated 16 million children and adults have diabetes. An estimated 800,000 have type 1 diabetes. An additional 10 million have diagnosed type 2 diabetes, with an additional 6 million estimated to have type 2 diabetes and not know it.

Diabetes is slightly more prevalent in women than men.

What are the symptoms of diabetes?

  • Excessive thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Weight loss
  • Blurred vision
  • Sometimes there are no symptoms (type 2 diabetes)

Who is at greatest risk for developing diabetes?

People who:

  • Are over 40
  • Are more than 20 percent overweight
  • Do not exercise regularly
  • Have someone else in their family with diabetes
  • Are members of a high-risk ethnic group (including African-American, Hispanic, and Native American)
  • Have given birth to a child weighing more than 9 pounds at birth, or weighed over 9 pounds at birth themselves
  • Have had gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy)
  • Have elevated blood pressure
  • Have an HDL cholesterol level (the "good" cholesterol) of 35 mg/dl or lower and/or a triglyceride level of 250 mg/dl or higher
  • Both type 1 and now type 2 diabetes are increasingly being diagnosed in children

What are the long-term complications of diabetes?

  • People with diabetes are two to four more times more likely to develop heart disease or have a stroke than non-diabetics
  • Diabetes is the leading cause of new blindness in adults in the U.S.
  • Diabetes is the leading cause of end-stage kidney disease in the U.S. , requiring either dialysis or kidney transplantation
  • More than half of the limb amputations in the U.S. occur among people with diabetes
  • About 60-70 percent of the people with diabetes have mild to severe nerve damage


  • Diabetes is the sixth-leading cause of death by disease in the United States
  • Diabetes leads to the death of an estimated 198,140 people in the U.S. each year
  • Diabetes and its complications cost an estimated $98 billion annually in the United States alone in terms of healthcare costs and lost productivity

*Courtesy of the American Diabetes Association.