Medical Definition of Diabetes

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Diabetes: Usually refers to diabetes mellitus or, less often, to diabetes insipidus. Diabetes mellitus and diabetes insipidus share the name "diabetes" because they are both conditions characterized by excessive urination (polyuria).

The word "diabetes" is from the Greek word meaning "a siphon" because people with diabetes "passed water like a siphon."

When "diabetes" is used alone, it refers to diabetes mellitus. The two main types of diabetes mellitus -- insulin-requiring type 1 diabetes and adult-onset type 2 diabetes -- are distinct and different diseases in themselves.

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Reviewed on 12/27/2018

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Medically reviewed by Martin Zipser, MD; Board Certified: Surgery

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