Diabetes (also called diabetes mellitus) is a chronic disease usually characterized by very high levels of blood glucose (often called blood sugar). There are two major types of diabetes, now called type 1 and type 2. Although the two forms are different in many ways, the end result of both is high blood sugar and the long-term complications that result.
Over time, diabetes can damage nearly every tissue in the body and result in disastrous complications, including heart attacks, stroke, blindness, kidney failure, and amputations of toes, feet, or legs. Because of the risk of these complications, patients who have diabetes should have regular check-ups. The IHS Standards of Care for Patients with Type 2 Diabetes describe recommended checks in detail.
Prediabetes is a related condition in which blood sugar levels are high, but not as high as in diabetes. In 2006, the IHS released standards of care for prediabetes, including screening guidelines. Another related condition, gestational diabetes, sometimes develops in women during pregnancy. Although gestational diabetes usually goes away after the baby is born, a woman who has had it has a higher chance of developing type 2 diabetes later in life. With modest weight loss and regular physical activity, people can delay or prevent the onset of diabetes.