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Diabetes mellitus is a serious medical disorder characterized by varying or persistently high blood sugar levels resulting from the defective secretion of the hormone insulin. It is a lifetime condition and has many possible complications.

Many people don’t know that diabetes can also develop during pregnancy. This is called gestational diabetes, which affects 2 to 3 percent of pregnant women. If it is not properly controlled, it can lead to problems for the mother or the baby.

What exactly is diabetes?

Diabetes is a disorder of metabolism, which means a disorder in the process in which our bodies use digested food for growth and energy. Most of the food we eat is broken down into glucose, the form of sugar which is present in our blood. This means that glucose is the main fuel for the body. It is used by cells for growth and energy but it can't enter the cells without the presence of insulin - a hormone produced by the pancreas, a large gland behind the stomach. This is a well coordinated process. When we eat, the pancreas automatically produces the right amount of insulin to move glucose from blood into our cells.

When someone has diabetes however, the pancreas either produces little or no insulin, or the cells do not respond appropriately to the insulin that is produced. The results are clear - glucose builds up in the blood, overflows into the urine, and is passed out of the body. 

Incidence of the condition

It is estimated that about 20.8 million people in the United States or 7 percent of the population, have diabetes. Of those, 14.6 million have been diagnosed, and 6.2 million have not yet been diagnosed. In 2005, about 1.5 million people aged 20 or older were diagnosed with diabetes.
About 1 in 200 women of childbearing age has diabetes before pregnancy and another 2 to 5 percent develop diabetes during pregnancy.

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