Also Known As: Diabetes mellitus

Diabetes is a group of conditions linked by an inability to produce enough insulin and/or to respond to insulin. This causes high blood glucose levels (hyperglycemia) and can lead to a number of acute and chronic health problems, some of them life-threatening.

People with diabetes are unable to process glucose, the body's primary energy source, effectively. Normally, after a meal, carbohydrates are broken down into glucose and other simple sugars. This causes blood glucose levels to rise and stimulates the pancreas to release insulin into the bloodstream. Insulin is a hormone produced by the beta cells in the pancreas. It regulates the transport of glucose into most of the body's cells and works with glucagon, another pancreatic hormone, to maintain blood glucose levels within a narrow range.

If someone is unable to produce enough insulin, or if the body's cells are resistant to its effects (insulin resistance), then less glucose is transported from the blood into cells. Blood glucose levels remain high but the body's cells "starve." This can cause both short-term and long-term health problems, depending on the severity of the insulin deficiency and/or resistance. Diabetics typically have to control their blood glucose levels on a daily basis and over time to avoid health problems and complications. Treatment, which may involve specialized diets, exercise and/or medications, including insulin, aims to ensure that blood glucose does not get too high or too low.


  • When someone has signs and symptoms suggesting diabetes
  • When a person has risk factors or a condition that is associated with diabetes
  • When a person presents to the emergency room with an acute condition
  • On a regular basis, to monitor diabetes and glucose control

Laboratory Tests

In addition to diabetes tests, used for screening, diagnosing and monitoring, a few other tests may be used in the evaluation of type 2 diabetes:

  • Diabetes autoantibodies - this test may help distinguish between type 1 and type 2 diabetes if the diagnosis is unclear. The presence of one or more of these antibodies indicates type 1 diabetes.
  • Insulin, C-peptide - to monitor insulin production
  • Urine and/or blood ketone tests may be ordered to monitor people who present at the emergency room with symptoms suggesting acute hyperglycemia and to monitor those who are being treated for ketoacidosis. A build up of ketones can occur whenever there is a decrease in the amount or effectiveness of insulin in the body.

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