Facebook Twitter Instagram You Tube Pinterest LinkedIn RSS Podcasts Video Library Blog
 - Northwestern Memorial Hospital - Chicago


Diabetes or diabetes mellitus is a condition where the body cannot maintain normal blood sugar levels. Blood sugar levels are controlled in the body by a hormone called insulin. Insulin is responsible for moving blood sugar into the cells. When the body does not produce enough insulin or the body does not respond normally to insulin, the blood sugar cannot move into the cells. This causes the blood sugar level in the blood to rise. There are three main types of diabetes:

  • Type 1 (previously known as insulin dependent): This often develops in young people.
  • Type 2 (previously known as insulin independent): This often develops in older people, but can develop at any age.
  • Gestational (diabetes in pregnancy): This type of diabetes occurs during pregnancy and can cause significant problems for both mother and baby.

Symptoms of Diabetes Include:

  • Frequent urination
  • Increased thirst
  • Weight loss
  • Increased hunger
  • Unexplained weakness or fatigue
  • Blurry vision
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Numbness or tingling of the feet
  • Frequent infections
  • Vaginal discharge or itching in young girls

Diabetes can also occur without symptoms. Therefore, it is important for all individuals to be tested for diabetes. Diabetes can be diagnosed with a simple blood test that measures the blood sugar level. Diabetes is present when the fasting blood sugar is greater than 125 mg/dL. Pre-diabetes is present when the blood sugar is between 100-125 mg/dL. Persons with pre-diabetes are at high risk for developing diabetes in the future.

Type 1 diabetes often develops in young individuals and is due to failure of the pancreas to make insulin. The pancreas is the organ in the body that makes insulin. Type 2 diabetes can happen in young or old persons. This type of diabetes is often due to the body not responding normally to insulin.

Risk Factors of Type 2 Diabetes Include:

  • Increased age
  • Obesity
  • Physical inactivity
  • Family history of diabetes
  • Prior history of gestational diabetes
  • Ethnicity: African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians, and some Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are at high risk

Risk Factors for Gestational Diabetes Include:

  • Obesity
  • Family history of diabetes
  • Ethnicity: African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, and American Indians are at higher risk
  • Women with gestational diabetes are at increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes later in life

Complications of Diabetes Include:

  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Peripheral vascular disease
  • Kidney failure
  • Blindness
  • Nerve damage (peripheral neuropathy)
  • Infections/poor healing of wounds
  • Lower sex drive

Treatments for Diabetes Include:

  • A healthy diet
  • Exercise
  • Weight loss
  • Medications if lifestyle changes are not enough to lower the blood sugar


The Center for Lifestyle Medicine can help you manage your weight; evaluate and manage your risk factors for major life-threatening chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and stroke; and recommend ways to change your behavior that suits your needs and personality. The Center for Lifestyle Medicine team includes physicians, dietitians and a health psychologist. For appointments, call 312-695-2300.

Last UpdateNovember 23, 2012

Referrals &

To obtain a referral or schedule
an appointment:

Northwestern Memorial:

Northwestern Lake Forest:
847-LF-HEART (534-3278)

Northwestern Grayslake:
847-LF-HEART (534-3278)

Glenview Outpatient Center:

847-724-GLEN (4536)