Diabetes Causes & Treatments

Diabetes is a disease that affects the body's ability to produce or respond to insulin, a hormone that enables cells to absorb glucose and use it as energy. Thus, diabetes is both an endocrine and a metabolic disease.


Diabetes is serious and common, with startling facts around this growing condition.


  • Diabetes was the seventh leading cause of death in the United States in 2010, according to the 2014 National Diabetes Statistics Report.
  • The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states 29.1 million Americans, or 9.3 percent of the U.S. population, have diabetes, but 8.1 million, or 28 percent, remain undiagnosed.
  • According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, approximately 9.1 million, or 8.9 percent, of all women in the United States have diabetes; however, about a third of them do not know it.
  • 25.9 percent of Americans age 65 and older had diabetes (diagnosed and undiagnosed) in 2012.
  • Prediabetes is estimated to affect 86 million Americans age 20 and older.


Types and Causes of Diabetes
  • Type 1 (insulin-dependent) diabetes occurs in individuals who produce little or no insulin, which is the hormone that helps convert blood sugar into energy. Type 1 diabetes is caused by genetics and other unknown factors that trigger the onset of the disease.
  • Type 2 (noninsulin-dependent) diabetes is the most common type in the United States and occurs when your body produces insufficient insulin to properly regulate blood sugar levels. Type 2 diabetes risk is increased by being obese or overweight, but most overweight people never develop type 2 diabetes. In fact, many people with type 2 diabetes are at a normal weight or only moderately overweight.


Type 1 and type 2 diabetes have different causes, but genes and environment are factors in both.


Symptoms of Diabetes
Like most medical conditions, early diagnosis is the best course of treatment. Seek help from a medical professional if you have these signs or symptoms of prediabetes or diabetes:


  • Excessive thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Abnormal hunger
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Dry skin and frequent infections
  • Slow-healing cuts or wounds


Diabetes can cause serious complications, such as the following:

  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Kidney disease and kidney failure
  • Eye problems and blindness
  • Amputation of feet and legs not related to accidents or injury

Treating Diabetes
While there is currently no cure for diabetes, both type 1 and type 2 can be managed. If you follow doctor’s orders, the disease should not get in the way of living a long, healthy life. If you are overweight or obese, you can lose weight with medical supervision. If your cholesterol is high, medications combined with exercise and a healthy diet can decrease levels of LDL (low-density lipoprotein), also known as bad cholesterol.

Controlling your weight and cholesterol can also reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.

At Houston Methodist we provide individualized care to patients suffering from diabetes, obesity or high cholesterol and their related complications. Our specialists at Houston Methodist — nationally recognized by the American Diabetes Association as an effective partner to prevent diabetes — provide patient education to increase awareness of this often hidden disease. The physicians and health care professionals at Houston Methodist use state-of-the-art technology to diagnose and treat all forms of diabetes-related disorders to give you the normal, healthy life you deserve.


Download our diabetes education booklet (pdf).

Download our diabetes education booklet in Spanish (pdf).

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