Basic information for topics, such as "What is it?" and "How many people are affected?" is available in the Condition Information section. In addition, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) that are specific to a certain topic are answered in this section.
- Can diabetes be prevented?
- Are there disorders or conditions that can contribute to or are associated with diabetes?
- What other health problems can diabetes cause?
- If I have diabetes, will I be able to get pregnant?
- Does having diabetes or gestational diabetes affect my infant?
Type 1 diabetes and gestational diabetes cannot currently be prevented, but this is an active area of research.
The Trial to Reduce the Incidence of Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus in the Genetically at Risk (TRIGR), supported in part by the NICHD, is examining whether exposure to proteins from cow’s milk or cow’s milk-based infant formula can cause type 1 diabetes, especially in children who are at high risk for the condition based on their family history and genetic profile. The Trial aims to determine whether a nutritional intervention—feeding cow’s milk-based formulas that have been processed to remove the foreign proteins—during infancy can delay or prevent the onset of type 1 diabetes in children at high risk for the condition. This research is still ongoing, but a small pilot study of 230 at-risk infants had encouraging results: The infants who received the processed formula had a lower autoimmune (self-attacking) response against the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas. This indicates that they may be at a lower risk of developing type 1 diabetes.1
Research also shows that there may be ways to prevent type 2 diabetes in some people. Lifestyle changes are a good way to start. In one large study called the Diabetes Prevention Program, people at high risk for type 2 diabetes who made these types of lifestyle changes lowered their risk of getting type 2 diabetes by 58%.
Also, remember that such changes can lower risks of developing other health problems associated with diabetes. Ask your health care provider or a diabetes educator for other ideas to meet your specific needs.
Yes, starting with overweight. When you’re overweight or obese, your risk for diabetes is higher.
Other conditions that can increase diabetes risk include:
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Your blood glucose is already affected, known as impaired glucose tolerance
- You’ve already had gestational diabetes
Diabetes can lead to quite a number of health problems, especially if it is not well controlled. Among the problems diabetes can cause:3
- Eye problems
- Nerve damage, including neuropathy (pronounced noo-rop-uh-thee),which leads to tingling, even numbness, especially in feet
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Gum disease
- Poor bladder control in women2
- Male impotence3
For more information on other health problems caused by diabetes, visit the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse.
Yes, women with diabetes can and do get pregnant. Pregnant women with diabetes are considered to have a High-Risk Pregnancy because the diabetes increases the risk for some complications. However, most women with diabetes have healthy pregnancies and healthy babies because they follow a health care provider’s recommendations for diabetes management.
If you have diabetes and are thinking about getting pregnant, discuss the subject with your health care provider. You might also want to consult a specialist with expertise dealing with both pregnancy and women with diabetes,4 as well as experts who can help you make healthy nutritional choices, such as a registered dietitian with a background in diabetes, or a diabetes educator.5
Most women who have diabetes and become pregnant or who have gestational diabetes have healthy pregnancies and deliver healthy babies because they manage their diabetes.
However, diabetes and especially uncontrolled diabetes are associated with several complications, including (but not limited to):
- Jaundice (pronounced JAWN-diss)—This yellowish tint to the infant’s skin is treatable and typically has no lasting effects.
- Hypoglycemia (pronounced hahy-poh-glahy-SEE-mee-uh)—Infant’s blood sugar is too low. You many need to breastfeed quickly, or find other ways to get more sugar into his/her system.
- Macrosomia (pronounced mak-row-SOHM-ee-uh)—Infant is large, which increases the likelihood of a cesarean or surgical delivery.
- Respiratory distress syndrome—Infant has trouble breathing and may require oxygen or other treatments.
- Low calcium and magnesium levels—Infant may need supplements to avoid other complications.
Working with your health care provider to control diabetes can help reduce the risk of these and other complications.
In addition, children whose mothers had gestational diabetes are at higher lifetime risk for type 2 diabetes, and for having it at a younger age than children whose mothers didn’t have the condition.5
- Knip, M., Virtanen, S. M., Seppä, K., Ilonen, J., Savilahti, E., Vaarala, O., et al.; Finnish TRIGR Study Group. (2010). Dietary intervention in infancy and later signs of beta-cell autoimmunity. New England Journal of Medicine, 363(20), 1900–1908. PMID: 21067382
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. (2012). Complications of diabetes. Retrieved May 23, 2012, from http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/complications/
- American Diabetes Association. (n.d.). Complications. Retrieved May 23, 2012, from http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/complications/?loc=DropDownLWD-complications
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. (2008). For Women with Diabetes: Your Guide to Pregnancy. Retrieved May 23, 2012, from http://www.diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/pregnancy/
- NICHD. (2004). Managing gestational diabetes: a patient’s guide to a healthy pregnancy. Retrieved May 12, 2012, from http://www.nichd.nih.gov/publications/pubs/gest_diabetes