HEALTH FEATURE ARCHIVE
What is diabetes mellitus?
Diabetes mellitus, commonly referred to as "diabetes,"
means "sweet urine."
It is a chronic medical condition associated with
abnormally high levels of
sugar (glucose) in the blood. Elevated levels of blood
(hyperglycemia) lead to spillage of glucose into the urine,
hence the term
sweet urine. Normally, blood glucose levels are tightly
insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas. Insulin lowers
glucose level. When the blood glucose elevates (for
example, after eating
food), insulin is released from the pancreas to normalize
the glucose level.
In patients with diabetes mellitus, the absence or
of insulin causes hyperglycemia. Diabetes mellitus is a
condition, meaning it can last a life time. Over time,
diabetes mellitus can
lead to blindness, kidney failure, and nerve damage.
Diabetes mellitus is
also an important factor in accelerating the hardening and
narrowing of the
arteries (atherosclerosis), leading to strokes, coronary
heart diseases, and
other blood vessel diseases in the body.
Diabetes mellitus affects 12-15 million people (6% of the
population) in the
United States. The direct and indirect cost of diabetes
mellitus is $40
billion per year. It is the third leading cause of death in
States after heart disease and cancer.
Points to remember
- Diabetes mellitus is a chronic condition associated with
levels of sugar (glucose) in the blood.
- Insulin produced by the pancreas lowers blood glucose.
- Absence or insufficient production of insulin causes
- The two types of diabetes are referred to as insulin
dependent (type I) and
non-insulin dependent (type II).
- Symptoms of diabetes mellitus include increased urine
output and appetite as
well as fatigue.
- Diabetes mellitus is diagnosed by blood sugar (glucose)
- The major complications of diabetes mellitus include
blood sugar, abnormally low blood sugar due to diabetes
disease of the blood vessels which can damage the eye,
kidneys, nerves, and
- Diabetes treatment depends on the type and severity of the
For more information, please visit the Diabetes Mellitus
Last Editorial Review: 3/29/2002