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Diabetic conditions and what you need to know

Diabetes is a chronic medical condition that affects how your body manages glucose, a type of sugar that serves as a crucial source of energy. Glucose comes from the food you eat and is carried by your blood to cells throughout your body, where it's used for various bodily functions.

What are the types of diabetes?

There are two primary types of diabetes:

  • Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition in which the immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. As a result, the body doesn't produce insulin, a hormone that helps glucose enter cells. People with Type 1 diabetes need to take insulin injections or use an insulin pump to manage their blood sugar levels.

  • Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes and usually develops in adulthood. In Type 2 diabetes, the body either doesn't produce enough insulin or doesn't use it effectively (insulin resistance). It's often associated with factors like genetics, obesity, and an unhealthy lifestyle. Management may involve lifestyle changes, oral medications, and, in some cases, insulin.

 

Other types of diabetes include:

  • Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy. Hormonal changes and increased insulin resistance can lead to elevated blood sugar levels. While it usually resolves after childbirth, it increases the risk of Type 2 diabetes later in life for both the mother and child.

  • Monogenic diabetes is a rare form of diabetes caused by a single gene mutation. It often presents in childhood or young adulthood and can be mistaken for Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. Treatment may involve lifestyle changes or specific medications.

  • Prediabetes is not a distinct type of diabetes but a condition in which blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as Type 2 diabetes. It serves as a warning sign, indicating an increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

 

Diabetes symptoms

  • Frequent urination

  • Excessive thirst

  • Increased hunger

  • Unexplained weight loss

  • Fatigue

  • Blurred Vision

  • Slow-healing sores

  • Frequent infections

  • Tingling or numbness

  • Darkened skin patches

  • Yeast infections

  • Irritability

 

Common diabetes-related conditions

  • Diabetic neuropathy: Nerve damage that can lead to pain, tingling, or numbness in the extremities.

  • Diabetic retinopathy: A condition affecting the eyes, potentially causing vision problems or blindness.

  • Diabetic foot problems: Foot complications, including ulcers and infections, often due to poor circulation.

  • Diabetic ketoacidosis: A serious complication resulting from high blood sugar levels and a lack of insulin.

  • Hypoglycemia: Low blood sugar levels that can lead to symptoms like dizziness, shakiness, and confusion.

  • Cardiovascular issues: Diabetes increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure.

  • Kidney disease (diabetic nephropathy): Kidney damage due to long-term uncontrolled diabetes.

  • Skin conditions: Diabetes can cause skin problems, including infections and itching.

  • Dental issues: Increased risk of gum disease and tooth decay in individuals with diabetes.

  • High blood pressure: Often co-occurs with diabetes, increasing the risk of heart disease.

 

If you experience any of these conditions, schedule an appointment with a St. Luke’s Health endocrinologist or diabetes medicine physician to receive prompt and proper treatment.

What foods should you avoid with diabetes?

If you have diabetes, it's essential to be mindful of your dietary choices to help manage blood sugar levels and overall health. Here are some foods to avoid or limit:

  • Sugary foods:

    • Candy: Avoid all types of candy, including hard candies, gummy bears, and chocolate bars.

    • Soda: Sugary soft drinks can cause rapid spikes in blood sugar levels.

    • Desserts: Cakes, cookies, pastries, and ice cream are high in sugar and should be consumed sparingly.

  • Processed grains: Refined grains can cause rapid blood sugar spikes.

    • White bread: Opt for whole-grain or whole-wheat bread instead.

    • White rice: Choose brown rice or other whole grains like quinoa or barley.

  • Fruit juices: Fruit juices can be high in sugar and can cause blood sugar spikes.

  • Sugary cereals: Many breakfast cereals are loaded with added sugar. Look for low-sugar or whole-grain options.

  • Potatoes and corn: These starchy vegetables can raise blood sugar levels. Opt for smaller portions or lower-carb alternatives.

  • High-fat snack foods: Foods high in unhealthy fats, like trans fats, can worsen insulin resistance.

    • Fried foods: Avoid deep-fried items, such as french fries and fried chicken.

    • Processed snacks: Skip packaged snacks high in trans fats, like chips and commercial baked goods.

  • High-sugar condiments: Some condiments can contain hidden sugars.

    • Ketchup: It often contains added sugar.

    • Barbecue sauce: This sauce can be high in sugar as well.

  • Dried fruits: While they may seem healthy, dried fruits are concentrated in sugar and can lead to blood sugar spikes. If you consume them, do so in moderation.

  • Alcohol: Alcohol can lower blood sugar, leading to hypoglycemia, especially if consumed on an empty stomach. If you choose to drink, do so in moderation and monitor your blood sugar levels.

  • High-fat dairy: Full-fat dairy products can be high in saturated fats, which can be harmful to heart health.

    • Whole milk: Opt for low-fat or fat-free milk.

    • Regular cheese: Choose reduced-fat or low-fat cheese.


Diabetes is a lifelong condition, but with the right treatment and self-care, people with diabetes can lead healthy, fulfilling lives. Consult with your endocrinologist to create a personalized plan based on your specific condition.

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