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Last Updated: August 2022

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a condition in which your body is not able to regulate or control the levels of glucose (sugar) in your blood. This results in too much or too little sugar in your blood. There are 3 major types of diabetes: type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes.

For more HealthLinkBC content on Diabetes, see:

For information for healthcare providers on the screening, management, and treatment of diabetes, see: Government of BC: BC Guidelines: Diabetes Care

What are the symptoms of Diabetes?

Symptoms may vary from person to person. Some people may not have any symptoms. The most common symptoms of high blood sugar, also known as hyperglycemia, may include:

  • Feeling very thirsty
  • Urinating often
  • Feeling very hungry
  • Weight change (gain or loss)
  • Extreme fatigue or lack of energy
  • Blurred vision
  • Frequent or recurring infections
  • Cuts and bruises that are slow to heal
  • Tingling or numbness in the hands or feet

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If your blood sugar is higher than it should be, but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes, you could have prediabetes. Prediabetes is a warning sign that you may be at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Symptoms of prediabetes include feeling very thirsty, peeing more often than usual, feeling very hungry, blurred vision, or losing weight without trying. To learn more about prediabetes, see:

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes occurs when you're unable to produce your own insulin. If you have type 1 diabetes, you will need to use an insulin injector or an insulin pump to make sure your body gets enough insulin. About 10% of diagnosed diabetics have type 1 diabetes.

For more information on type 1 Diabetes, see Type 1 Diabetes

For more information on the use of insulin, see:

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes occurs when your body does not respond properly to the insulin it produces. Treatment includes medication and lifestyle changes to your diet and exercise routine. About 90% of diagnosed diabetics have this type of diabetes. To learn more, see Type 2 Diabetes

Who is at risk for Type 2 Diabetes?

You have a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes if you are over the age of 40 or if you have a parent, brother, or sister with diabetes. Your ethnic background is also a factor and can increase your risk of living with type 2 diabetes. These are diabetes risk factors that are beyond your control.

To learn more about diabetes risk factors, see:

What is Hypoglycemia?

Some individuals with type 2 diabetes may experience hypoglycemia, also known as low blood sugar. Hypoglycemia can be caused by doing more physical activity than usual, not eating on time or enough, or taking too much of your diabetes medication.

Symptoms of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) may include dizziness, shakiness, sweating, weakness, faster heart rate, drowsiness, intense hunger, headache, and looking pale. There may also be confusion and sudden moodiness or behavior changes.

If you are having any of the symptoms of low blood sugar, check your blood sugar right away. If you do not have your blood sugar meter with you, play it safe and treat your low blood sugar symptoms anyway. To learn more, see:

What is Hyperglycemia?

Some individuals may experience hyperglycemia, also known as high blood sugar. This is caused when your body doesn't make enough insulin or can't use insulin properly. Learn more about high blood sugar and how to prevent high blood sugar emergencies:

How is Type 2 Diabetes diagnosed?

Your doctor can test for diabetes using four methods. These include a fasting blood glucose test, random blood glucose test, A1C test, or an oral glucose tolerance test. You may receive one of these tests or a combination of them. For more information:

Checking Sugar Levels

How is Type 2 Diabetes treated?

Treatment of type 2 diabetes may include medication and lifestyle changes. You may need to change the way you eat, change your physical activity level and monitor your blood glucose level. Sometimes, pills and/or insulin injections are needed to manage diabetes. Talk with your doctor to find solutions that work best for you in managing your diabetes. For information on HealthLinkBC regarding type 2 diabetes treatments, see:

Self-Care for Diabetics

What are the potential complications?

Complications can occur if diabetes is left untreated or not managed properly. Complications include heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, eye damage, high blood pressure, and nerve damage. To learn more, see:

How can I reduce my chance of getting type 2 diabetes?

To reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes, eat nutritious foods, be physically active on a regular basis, reach and maintain your best weight, and take medication if you need to. See Healthy Eating and Physical Activity for more information about how you can help reduce your risk or manage diabetes through meal planning, healthy eating and lifestyle choices.

For more information about diabetes, visit Diabetes Canada: Preventing Diabetes.

Healthy Eating

To learn more about how healthy eating and physical activity can help you manage your blood sugar, see:

Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes may occur during pregnancy if your level of blood glucose becomes too high. This may cause problems for you and your baby. Controlling blood sugar levels with treatment and a healthy lifestyle will minimize the risks.

For more information, see Gestational Diabetes.

For information about diabetic screening when pregnant, see BC Women's Hospital – Diabetes and Pregnancy.

For information about breastfeeding and diabetes, see Breastfeeding When You Have Diabetes

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Healthy Authority Resources for Diabetes

For additional diabetes information and resources from your health authority, see: