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Controlling diabetes requires an around-the-clock commitment from the individual with diabetes. The onset of complications due to diabetes (increased risk of cardiovascular problems and stroke, eye problems and poor blood circulation) can be delayed and even prevented through effective diabetes management. Education is the key to understanding and managing diabetes. Here are some facts on education:

Seriousness of Diabetes:   back to top
What every one should know about diabetes

Diabetes is a chronic disease that has no cure. It is a leading cause of death by disease in Canada.

There are three types of diabetes.

Type 1 or insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM) occurs when the pancreas no longer produces nay or very little insulin. Insulin is needed in the body to use sugar for energy. Approximately 10 percent of people with diabetes have Type 1 diabetes. The remaining 90 percent are affected by Type 2 diabetes or non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM).

Type 2 diabetes occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or when the body does not use the insulin that is produced effectively.

A third type of diabetes, gestational diabetes, is a temporary condition that occurs during pregnancy. It affects one out of every 20 pregnant women with 40 percent of those cases developing into Type 2 diabetes later in life.


Complications   back to top

People with diabetes are at risk for developing a variety of complications. Approximately 40 percent of people with diabetes develop complications due to the disease. Through early diagnosis and intensive therapy (close monitoring of blood glucose levels advocated by diabetes health care practitioners following the 10-year Diabetes Control and Complications Trial – DCCT based on Type 1 diabetes), the onset of these complications can be delayed and / or prevented.
Possible complications include:

Microvascular complications (small blood vessel damage)

  • Retinopathy (impairment or loss of vision due to blood vessel damage in the eyes)
  • Retinopathy is the sole cause of blindness in approximately 86 percent of people affected by younger onset diabetes (<30 years).
  • 12 percent of all new cases of blindness are caused by diabetes
  • Diabetes is the leading cause of adult blindness

Neuropathy (nerve damage and foot problems due to blood vessel damage to the nervous system )

  • 40 to 50 percent of people with diabetes are affected by neuropathy
  • Lower extremity amputation is eleven times more frequent for people with diabetes than people without diabetes
  • Diabetes is the leading cause (accounting for 50 percent) of all non-accident-related amputations.
  • Nephropathy (Kidney disease due to blood vessel damage in the kidneys)

Macrovascular Complications (large blood vessel damage)

Cardiac Problems

  • The risk of cardiac heart disease and stroke is increased by two-fold in men and
  • Three to four-fold in women

Hypertension (high blood pressure)

  • Seniors with diabetes are twice as likely to develop hypertension than those without diabetes.

Other Complications


  • People with diabetes are more susceptible to infections of the mouth and gums, urinary tract, lower extremities and incisions after surgery if blood glucose levels are not controlled.


  • 50 to 60 percent of men with diabetes experience impotence
  • Some medications prescribed to control diabetes cause impotence in some men.

Pregnancy Complications

  • 4 percent of pregnant women develop gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM); those women have a 40 percent chance of developing Type 2 diabetes within 10 years of their pregnancy.
  • Women with diabetes are two times more likely to have a large baby than women without diabetes.
  • Cesarean section are three to four times more likely for pregnant women with diabetes

Diabetes Risks and Symptoms   back to top


Although the causes of diabetes are unknown, there are several factors that can increase the risk of developing diabetes.

For Type 1'" diabetes the risk factors include:

  • Race and ethnicity;
  • Family history of diabetes; and
  • Exposure to some viruses, such as Coxsackie B virus.

For Type 2 diabetes the risk factors include:

  • Family history of diabetes;
  • Age (over 45 years old);
  • Obesity (the number of people with diabetes in an unhealthy weight range is double that found in the population without diabetes);
  • Physical inactivity;
  • Race/ethnicity (diabetes is more prevalent in people of Aboriginal, African and Latin-American descent; and
  • A previous diagnosis of impaired glucose tolerance


People with Type 1 diabetes usually experience the rapid onset of extreme and urgent symptoms. Symptoms for Type 1 diabetes may include:

  • Frequent urination;
  • Unusual thirst;
  • Extreme hunger;
  • Unusual weight loss;
  • Extreme fatigue;
  • Irritability;
  • Blurred vision;
  • Nausea;
  • Vomiting; and
  • Sweet smelling breath.

People with Type 2 diabetes can experience few or no symptoms of diabetes and therefore the disease remains undetected. However, there are a number of symptoms that may apparent:

  • Any symptoms of Type 1 diabetes;
  • Frequent infections;
  • Cuts and bruises that are slow to heal;
  • Tingling / numbness in the hands or feet; and
  • Recurring skin, gum or bladder infections.

Diabetes can be diagnosed through a routine blood test.


Quick Links:

What every one should know about diabetes
Diabetes Risks and Symptoms