What is diabetes?

Learn more about the different kinds of diabetes.

What is Diabetes?

If you have diabetes it means that your blood sugar, also called blood glucose, is too high. Normally, a hormone called insulin helps turn food into energy. When a person has diabetes, the body either doesn't make insulin or cannot use insulin correctly.

When diabetes is uncontrolled, it can cause serious health issues, including blindness, kidney failure, and heart disease. Diabetes can be controlled by keeping blood sugar levels within a normal range, eating well and being physically active.


Prediabetes is a condition where your blood sugar level is above normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes.

Learn more about prediabetes here.

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is less common than other types of diabetes. It typically develops in children or young adults. If you have type 1 diabetes, your body is unable to make insulin, the hormone needed to change food into energy. People with type 1 diabetes need to take daily injections of insulin.

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of the disease. 95% of people with diabetes have type 2 diabetes. If you have type 2 diabetes, your body does not use insulin correctly. Type 2 diabetes is preventable, meaning you can take steps to avoid developing the disease. Read more about Risk Factors for Diabetes.

Gestational Diabetes (Diabetes during pregnancy)

Gestational diabetes only happens in pregnant women. Women can get gestational diabetes without having a history of diabetes before pregnancy. If you have gestational diabetes, the treatment may include insulin injections that help control blood sugar levels. Having gestational diabetes puts you at a higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes in the future. Additionally, you are at increased risk of having gestational diabetes with future pregnancies.

Pediatric Diabetes

For information about diabetes in school-aged children in Massachusetts, visit the Bureau of Environmental Health’s (BEH) Environmental Public Health Tracking website.

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