What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic health condition that affects how your body turns food into energy.  

Your body breaks down most of the food you eat into sugar – called glucose – and releases it into your bloodstream. When your blood sugar increases, your pancreas releases insulin. Insulin lets the blood sugar into your body’s cells for use as energy.  

When someone has diabetes, their body doesn’t make enough insulin. When your body doesn’t have enough insulin or cells don’t respond to insulin, too much blood sugar stays in your bloodstream. Over time, this can cause serious health problems.  

There is no cure for diabetes, but a healthy lifestyle – such as eating healthy food and exercising regularly –  can help individuals manage the disease and prevent additional health issues. 

There are two main types of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2.

Type 1 diabetes is thought to be caused by an autoimmune reaction that stops your body from making insulin. About 5% to 10% of individuals with diabetes have Type 1.

Type 2 diabetes prevents the body from using insulin efficiently and keeping blood sugar at normal levels. About 90% to 95% of individuals with diabetes have Type 2. 

Unlike Type 1, Type 2 diabetes can be prevented by:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Eating healthy foods
  • Exercising regularly

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Diabetes symptoms

If you have any of the following symptoms, talk with your health care provider about getting your blood sugar tested:

  • Urinating a lot, especially while sleeping.
  • Significant thirst and hunger.
  • Weight loss without trying.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Numb or tingling hands or feet.
  • Significant fatigue.
  • Very dry skin.
  • Sores that heal slowly.
  • More infections than usual.

Managing diabetes

Individuals with diabetes can help manage the disease by:

  • Managing your blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
  • Taking steps toward healthy habits, including planning healthy meals, being physically active, getting enough sleep and avoiding smoking. 
  • Reaching or maintain a healthy weigundefined Opens in new windowht. If you are overweight or obese, ask your health care provider if healthy eating, physical activity or other weight-loss treatments may help manage your weight.
  • Getting a dilated eye exam at least once a year and sharing the results with your health care provider. Visit an eye professional right away if you see little black lines or spots that do not go away, see any red spots or a red fog, have a sudden change in how clearly you see or take longer than usual to adjust to darkness.
  • Checking your feet every day for calluses, cuts, sores, blisters, red spots and swelling. Wash them every day with warm water and dry them well, including between your toes.
  • Getting a dental exam once or more a year and take care of your teeth at home, brushing with a soft-bristled toothbrush two or more times a day and flossing at least once a day.
  • Taking your medicines on time.
  • Taking care of your mental health. If you feel down, sad or overwhelmed, talk with your health care provider about mental health resources or visit berriencounty.org/1697/Mental-Health. 

Our Services

We offer free hearing and vision screenings for school-age children in Berrien County as well as a list of eye care providers who accept Medicaid health insurance. 

We host the Benton Harbor Farmers Market each week in the summer, providing community members with a wide variety of delicious locally grown produce at affordable prices. We also provide resources for smoking cessation

Additional Resources