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Diabetes: Frequently asked questions

Diabetes is usually a lifelong disease in which there is a high level of sugar in the blood. Diabetes affects more than 20 million Americans. In addition, over 40 million Americans have pre-diabetes. To understand diabetes, it is important to first understand the normal process by which food is broken down and used by the body for energy.

When food is digested, a sugar called glucose enters the bloodstream. Glucose is a source of fuel for the body. Then, an organ called the pancreas makes insulin. The role of insulin is to move glucose from the bloodstream into muscle, fat, and liver cells, where it can be used as fuel.

People with diabetes have high blood sugar because their body cannot move sugar into fat, liver, and muscle cells to be stored for energy. This is because their pancreas does not make enough insulin and/or their cells do not respond to insulin normally. After many years, diabetes can lead to other serious problems. These complications include: eye problems, painful sores and infections of the leg or foot, nerve damage, kidney problems, weakened immune system, and an increased risk heart attack or stroke.