- What is diabetes?
- What are common consequences of diabetes?
- How can the burden of diabetes be reduced?
- WHO response
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Type 2 Diabetes Statistics and Facts
- Complications and effects
- Diabetes Statistics
- Diabetes Facts and Statistics
- Prediabetes Facts and Statistics
- Additional Reports on Diabetes
What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs either when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces. Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar. Hyperglycaemia, or raised blood sugar, is a common effect of uncontrolled diabetes and over time leads to serious damage to many of the body’s systems, especially the nerves and blood vessels.
In 2014, 8.5% of adults aged 18 years and older had diabetes. In 2016, diabetes was the direct cause of 1.6 million deaths and in 2012 high blood glucose was the cause of another 2.2 million deaths.
Type 1 diabetes
Type 1 diabetes (previously known as insulin-dependent, juvenile or childhood-onset) is characterized by deficient insulin production and requires daily administration of insulin. The cause of type 1 diabetes is not known and it is not preventable with current knowledge.
Symptoms include excessive excretion of urine (polyuria), thirst (polydipsia), constant hunger, weight loss, vision changes, and fatigue. These symptoms may occur suddenly.
Type 2 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes (formerly called non-insulin-dependent, or adult-onset) results from the body’s ineffective use of insulin. Type 2 diabetes comprises the majority of people with diabetes around the world, and is largely the result of excess body weight and physical inactivity.
Symptoms may be similar to those of type 1 diabetes, but are often less marked. As a result, the disease may be diagnosed several years after onset, once complications have already arisen.
Until recently, this type of diabetes was seen only in adults but it is now also occurring increasingly frequently in children.
Gestational diabetes is hyperglycaemia with blood glucose values above normal but below those diagnostic of diabetes, occurring during pregnancy.
Women with gestational diabetes are at an increased risk of complications during pregnancy and at delivery. They and their children are also at increased risk of type 2 diabetes in the future.
Gestational diabetes is diagnosed through prenatal screening, rather than through reported symptoms.
Impaired glucose tolerance and impaired fasting glycaemia
Impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) and impaired fasting glycaemia (IFG) are intermediate conditions in the transition between normality and diabetes. People with IGT or IFG are at high risk of progressing to type 2 diabetes, although this is not inevitable.
What are common consequences of diabetes?
Over time, diabetes can damage the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, and nerves.
- Adults with diabetes have a two- to three-fold increased risk of heart attacks and strokes (1).
- Combined with reduced blood flow, neuropathy (nerve damage) in the feet increases the chance of foot ulcers, infection and eventual need for limb amputation.
- Diabetic retinopathy is an important cause of blindness, and occurs as a result of long-term accumulated damage to the small blood vessels in the retina. 2.6% of global blindness can be attributed to diabetes (2).
- Diabetes is among the leading causes of kidney failure (3).
How can the burden of diabetes be reduced?
Simple lifestyle measures have been shown to be effective in preventing or delaying the onset of type 2 diabetes. To help prevent type 2 diabetes and its complications, people should:
- achieve and maintain healthy body weight;
- be physically active – at least 30 minutes of regular, moderate-intensity activity on most days. More activity is required for weight control;
- eat a healthy diet, avoiding sugar and saturated fats intake; and
- avoid tobacco use – smoking increases the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
Diagnosis and treatment
Early diagnosis can be accomplished through relatively inexpensive testing of blood sugar.
Treatment of diabetes involves diet and physical activity along with lowering blood glucose and the levels of other known risk factors that damage blood vessels. Tobacco use cessation is also important to avoid complications.
Interventions that are both cost-saving and feasible in developing countries include:
- blood glucose control, particularly in type 1 diabetes. People with type 1 diabetes require insulin, people with type 2 diabetes can be treated with oral medication, but may also require insulin;
- blood pressure control; and
- foot care.
Other cost saving interventions include:
- screening and treatment for retinopathy (which causes blindness)
- blood lipid control (to regulate cholesterol levels)
- screening for early signs of diabetes-related kidney disease and treatment.
WHO aims to stimulate and support the adoption of effective measures for the surveillance, prevention and control of diabetes and its complications, particularly in low and middle-income countries. To this end, WHO:
- provides scientific guidelines for the prevention of major noncommunicable diseases including diabetes;
- develops norms and standards for diabetes diagnosis and care;
- builds awareness on the global epidemic of diabetes, marking World Diabetes Day (14 November); and
- conducts surveillance of diabetes and its risk factors.
The WHO “Global report on diabetes” provides an overview of the diabetes burden, the interventions available to prevent and manage diabetes, and recommendations for governments, individuals, the civil society and the private sector.
The WHO “Global strategy on diet, physical activity and health” complements WHO’s diabetes work by focusing on population-wide approaches to promote healthy diet and regular physical activity, thereby reducing the growing global problem of overweight people and obesity.
* Defined as fasting blood glucose equal to or higher than 7 mmol/L, or on medication for raised blood glucose, or with a history of diagnosis of diabetes.
** High blood glucose is defined as a distribution of fasting plasma glucose in a population that is higher than the theoretical distribution that would minimize risks to health (derived from epidemiological studies). High blood glucose is a statistical concept, not a clinical or diagnostic category.
(1) Diabetes mellitus, fasting blood glucose concentration, and risk of vascular disease: a collaborative meta-analysis of 102 prospective studies. Emerging Risk Factors Collaboration.
Sarwar N, Gao P, Seshasai SR, Gobin R, Kaptoge S, Di Angelantonio et al. Lancet. 2010; 26;375:2215-2222.
(3) 2014 USRDS annual data report: Epidemiology of kidney disease in the United States.
United States Renal Data System. National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, Bethesda, MD, 2014:188–210.
Type 2 Diabetes
More than 30 million Americans have diabetes (about 1 in 10), and 90% to 95% of them have type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes most often develops in people over age 45, but more and more children, teens, and young adults are also developing it.
Insulin is a hormone made by your pancreas that acts like a key to let blood sugar into the cells in your body for use as energy. If you have type 2 diabetes, cells don’t respond normally to insulin; this is called insulin resistance. Your pancreas makes more insulin to try to get cells to respond. Eventually your pancreas can’t keep up, and your blood sugar rises, setting the stage for prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. High blood sugar is damaging to the body and can cause other serious health problems, such as heart disease, vision loss, and kidney disease.
Symptoms & Risk Factors
Type 2 diabetes symptoms often develop over several years and can go on for a long time without being noticed (sometimes there aren’t any noticeable symptoms at all). Because symptoms can be hard to spot, it’s important to know the risk factors for type 2 diabetes and to see your doctor to get your blood sugar tested if you have any of them.
A simple blood test will let you know if you have diabetes. If you’ve gotten your blood sugar tested at a health fair or pharmacy, follow up at a clinic or doctor’s office to make sure the results are accurate.
Unlike many health conditions, diabetes is managed mostly by you, with support from your health care team (including your primary care doctor, foot doctor, dentist, eye doctor, registered dietitian nutritionist, diabetes educator, and pharmacist), family, and other important people in your life. Managing diabetes can be challenging, but everything you do to improve your health is worth it!
You may be able to manage your type 2 diabetes with healthy eating and being active, or your doctor may prescribe insulin, other injectable medications, or oral diabetes medicines to help control your blood sugar and avoid complications. You’ll still need to eat healthy and be active if you take insulin or other medicines. It’s also important to keep your blood pressure and cholesterol under control and get necessary screening tests.
You’ll need to check your blood sugar regularly. Ask your doctor how often you should check it and what your target blood sugar levels should be. Keeping your blood sugar levels as close to target as possible will help you prevent or delay diabetes-related complications.
Stress is a part of life, but it can make managing diabetes harder, including controlling your blood sugar levels and dealing with daily diabetes care. Regular physical activity, getting enough sleep, and relaxation exercises can help. Talk to your doctor and diabetes educator about these and other ways you can manage stress.
Make regular appointments with your health care team to be sure you’re on track with your treatment plan and to get help with new ideas and strategies if needed.
Whether you just got diagnosed with diabetes or have had it for some time, meeting with a diabetes educator is a great way to get support and guidance, including how to:
- Develop a healthy eating and activity plan
- Test your blood sugar and keep a record of the results
- Recognize the signs of high or low blood sugar and what to do about it
- If needed, give yourself insulin by syringe, pen, or pump
- Monitor your feet, skin, and eyes to catch problems early
- Buy diabetes supplies and store them properly
- Manage stress and deal with daily diabetes care
Ask your doctor about diabetes self-management education and to recommend a diabetes educator, or search the American Association of Diabetes Educators’ nationwide directoryexternal icon for a list of educators in your community.
Type 2 Diabetes & Youth
Childhood obesity rates are rising, and so are the rates of type 2 diabetes in youth. More than 75% of children with type 2 diabetes have a close relative who has it, too. But it’s not always because family members are related; it can also be because they share certain habits that can increase their risk. Parents can help prevent or delay type 2 diabetes by developing a plan for the whole family:
- Drinking more water and fewer sugary drinks
- Eating more fruits and vegetables
- Making favorite foods healthier
- Making physical activity more fun
Healthy changes become habits more easily when everyone makes them together. Find out more out more about preventing type 2 diabetes in kids.
Connect with Others
Tap into online diabetes communities for encouragement, insights, and support. The American Diabetes Association’s Community pageexternal icon and the American Association of Diabetes Educators’ Peer Support Resourcesexternal icon are great ways to connect with others who share your experience.
Type 2 Diabetes Statistics and Facts
Keeping a healthy weight is important. The Diabetes Prevention Program found that weight loss and increased physical activity reduced the chance of prediabetes turning into type 2 diabetes by 58 percent. For people 60 years or older, the reduction was 71 percent. For overweight people, losing five to seven percent of body weight through exercise and healthy eating could prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes.
Get regular checks of your blood cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels. Work to achieve and maintain healthy levels of each. Having healthy levels of these three indicators greatly reduces your risk of diabetes.
The drug metformin was found to reduce the risk of diabetes onset by 31 percent, particularly in younger and heavier prediabetic adults.
Complications and effects
Problems from type 2 diabetes are common and can be severe. People with diabetes have twice the risk of death of any cause compared to people of the same age without diabetes. In 2014, diabetes was listed as the seventh leading cause of death in the United States. The contribution of diabetes to death may be underreported on death certificates.
Side effects of type 2 diabetes can include:
- heart disease
- blindness and eye problems
- kidney disease
- nervous system complications
- foot problems
- dental disease
- pregnancy complications
- mental health problems, such as depression
- skin issues
WHO estimates that 50 percent of people with diabetes die of cardiovascular disease, such as heart disease and stroke. The American Diabetes Association reports that more than 71 percent of U.S. adults with diabetes had hypertension or used medication to treat hypertension.
There were 7,686 cases of diabetic retinopathy in the United States in 2010. Diabetes is the leading cause of newly diagnosed adult blindness for people between the ages of 20 and 74 years.
Diabetes was also the primary cause of kidney failure in 44 percent of all new cases in 2011. During the same year, it was also reported that 228,924 people began treatment for kidney failure due to diabetes.
Sensation problems and amputation
Diabetes causes mild loss of sensation in the extremities in as many as 70 percent of adults who have it. Amputations of lower extremities may eventually be necessary, especially for people with blood vessel disease. More than 60 percent of all nontraumatic amputations of lower limbs occur in people with diabetes. Approximately 73,000 lower-limb amputations were performed in diabetics age 20 and older.
Uncontrolled diabetes during pregnancy can increase the chance of:
- birth defects
- large babies
- other issues that can be dangerous to the baby and the mother
Mental health effects
People with diabetes are twice as likely to suffer from depression as people without diabetes.
This content describes the prevalence of diabetes and prediabetes in the United States.
Diabetes Facts and Statistics
Diabetes occurs when your blood glucose, also called blood sugar, is too high. High blood glucose can cause health problems over time. The main types of diabetes are type 1, type 2, and gestational. Learn more from the Diabetes Overview.
- Total: An estimated 30.3 million people have diabetes (9.4 percent of the U.S. population)
- Diagnosed: An estimated 23.1 million people have been diagnosed with diabetes (7.2 percent of the U.S. population)
- Undiagnosed: An estimated 7.2 million adults, ages 18 years or older are undiagnosed (23.8 percent of people with diabetes)
View the full report: National Diabetes Statistics Report, 2017 (PDF, 1.35 MB) from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
According to the American Diabetes Association’s Economic Costs of Diabetes in the U.S., the total estimated cost of diagnosed diabetes in 2017 was $327 billion, including $237 billion in direct medical costs and $90 billion in reduced productivity.
Prediabetes Facts and Statistics
Prediabetes is a condition in which blood glucose or A1C levels—which reflect average blood glucose levels—are higher than normal but not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes. People with prediabetes are at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, which can lead to heart attack or stroke. Learn more about prediabetes.
- An estimated 84.1 million adults ages 18 years or older (33.9 percent of U.S. adults) have prediabetes
- 23.1 million adults (48.3 percent) ages 65 or older have prediabetes.
- More men (36.6 percent) than women (29.3 percent) have prediabetes.
- The prevalence of prediabetes is similar among men and women across racial and ethnic groups.
View the full report: National Diabetes Statistics Report, 2017 (PDF, 1.35 MB) from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Additional Reports on Diabetes
- Diabetes in America 3rd edition provides comprehensive data on diabetes and its complications in the United States.
- NDEP National Diabetes Survey NNDS presents findings from the 2016 survey, which measures trends in diabetes awareness, knowledge and behavior.
- Maps of Trends in Diabetes and Obesity slides from the CDC show trends in the prevalence of obesity and diagnosed diabetes among U.S. adults from 1994-2015.
- Diabetes and African Americans (from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of Minority Health) provides prevalence data on diabetes and African-Americans, including death rates, risk factors, and links to more information.
- Diabetes and American Indians/Alaska Natives (from the HHS Office of Minority Health) provides prevalence data on diabetes in American Indians and Alaska Natives, including death rates, risk factors, and links to more information.
- Diabetes and Asians and Pacific Islanders (from the HHS the Office of Minority Health) provides prevalence data on diabetes and Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Americans, including death rates, risk factors, and links to more information.
- Diabetes and Hispanic Americans (from the HHS Office of Minority Health) provides prevalence data on diabetes in Hispanics/Latinos, including death rates, risk factors, and links to more information.