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Diabetes at a Glance Fact Sheet

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 estimate that 20.8 million children and adults in the United States—7 percent of the population—have diabetes. An estimated 14.6 million Americans have been diagnosed, leaving 6.2 million Americans unaware that they have the disease. Most people with diabetes have type 2; an estimated 800,000 have type 1. About 1.5 million people age 20 or older will be diagnosed with diabetes this year. Diabetes is more prevalent among Native Americans, African Americans, Hispanic Americans and Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders. An estimated 54 million people in the U.S have pre-diabetes, a condition that occurs when one has higher than normal blood glucose levels, but not high enough to be diagnosed as having type 2 diabetes. (Research shows that if action is taken to control glucose levels, those with pre-diabetes can prevent or delay the onset of diabetes.)

What are the symptoms of diabetes?

  • Excessive thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Weight loss
  • Blurred vision
  • Increased hunger
  • Frequent skin, bladder or gum infections
  • Irritability
  • Tingling or numbness in hands or feet
  • Slow to heal wounds
  • Extreme unexplained fatigue
  • Sometimes there are no symptoms (type 2 diabetes)

Who is at greatest risk for developing diabetes?

People who:

  • are 45 or over
  • are overweight
  • are habitually physically inactive
  • have previously been identified as having IFG (impaired fasting glucose) or IGT (impaired glucose tolerance)
  • have a family history of diabetes
  • are members of certain ethnic groups (including Asian American, African American, Hispanic American, and Native American)
  • have had gestational diabetes or have given birth to a child weighing more than 9 pounds
  • have elevated blood pressure
  • have an HDL cholesterol level (the good cholesterol) below 35 mg/dl and/or a triglyceride level above 250 mg/dl
  • have polycystic ovary syndrome
  • have a history of vascular disease     

What are the long-term complications of diabetes?

  • People with diabetes are two to four times more likely to develop heart disease or have a stroke than those who don't have diabetes
  • Diabetes is the leading cause of new blindness among adults between 20 and 74 years old
  • Diabetes is the leading cause of end-stage kidney disease in the U.S.
  • More than 60 percent of the nontraumatic lower limb amputations in the U.S. occur in people with diabetes
  • About 60-70 percent of people with diabetes have mild to severe nerve damage

Diabetes is the fifth-leading cause of death by disease in the United States. Diabetes leads to the death of an estimated 224,000 people in the U.S. each year. Diabetes and its complications cost an estimated $132 billion annually in the United States alone, in terms of healthcare costs and lost productivity.

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Page last updated: September 23, 2014