Diabetes is a chronic, complex and destructive disease that can cause a wide range of problems, including heart disease, kidney failure, amputations, and blindness. By taking care of themselves through diet, exercise, and special medications, individuals can control diabetes.

More than 25 million Americans have diabetes. Classified as a "chronic disease epidemic" by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the prevalence of diabetes has increased dramatically over the past forty years.

All people with diabetes are at risk of developing eye disease that can permanently damage their vision and even lead to blindness. In fact, individuals with diabetes that has not been treated are 25 times more likely to lose their sight than the general population.

Race and family history seem to have a lot to do with who will get diabetes. People who are of Hispanic, African, Asian, Pacific Island, or Native American descent are more likely to develop diabetes, especially if they are overweight.

Types of Diabetes

Type I diabetes (Juvenile Onset)

This form of diabetes is usually diagnosed in children. It occurs when the pancreas is unable to produce insulin, an essential body requirement.

Type II diabetes (Adult Onset)

This form of diabetes occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or when the body does not effectively use the insulin that the body does produce. Type II diabetes usually develops in adulthood, although increasing numbers of children in some populations are being diagnosed.

Gestational Diabetes

This form of diabetes is a temporary condition that occurs during pregnancy. Gestational Diabetes affects two to four percent of all pregnancies.

Diabetes and Health

Both Type I and Type II diabetes are serious diseases, and can lead to the same kinds of complications, including diabetic eye disease. But people with diabetes can take several steps to stay well. Most important are eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, maintaining close control of blood sugar levels, and learning as much as possible about living with diabetes.