West Virginia Bureau for Public Health
350 Capitol Street • Room 206 • Charleston, WV 25301-3715
phone: (304) 558-0644 • fax: (304) 558-1553

What is Diabetes?


Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin. Insulin is a hormone that is needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy needed for daily life. Although the cause of diabetes is unknown, both genetic and environmental factors such as obesity and lack of exercise appear to play roles.

There are 20.8 million children and adults in the United States, or 7% of the population, who have diabetes. While an estimated 14.6 million have been diagnosed with diabetes, unfortunately, 6.2 million people (or nearly one-third) are unaware that they have the disease.

Signs and symptoms of diabetes:

  • being very thirsty
  • urinating often
  • feeling very hungry
  • feeling very tired
  • losing weight without trying
  • having cuts or sores that heal slowly
  • having dry, itchy skin
  • loss of feeling or tingling in the feet or toes
  • having blurry vision


  Types of diabetes:

  • Type 1 diabetes is usually first diagnosed in children, teenagers or young adults.  In this form of diabetes, the pancreas no longer makes insulin which is the hormone that "unlocks" the cells of the body, allowing glucose to enter and fuel them. It is estimated that 5-10% of Americans who are diagnosed with diabetes have type 1 diabetes. Treatment for type 1 diabetes includes taking insulin shots or using an insulin pump, making wise food choices, being physically active and controlling blood pressure and cholesterol.
  • Type 2 diabetes usually begins with insulin resistance, a condition in which fat, muscle and liver cells do not use insulin properly.  At first the pancreas keeps us with the added demand by producing more insulin but over time it loses the ability to produce enough insulin to respond to the food a person eats. Type 2 diabetes can occur at any age (even childhood). Being overweight and inactive increases the chance of developing type 2 diabetes.  90-95% of Americans who are diagnosed with diabetes have type 2 diabetes.
  • Gestational diabetes is caused by the hormones of pregnancy or a shortage of insulin.  It occurs in some women in the late stages of pregnancy.  Although this form of diabetes usually goes away after the baby is born, a woman who has had it is more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life. Gestational diabetes affects about 4% of all pregnant women - about 135,000 cases in the United States each year.


 People with diabetes are encouraged to have: 


  • At least two HbA1c tests per year
  • Annual fasting lipid profile (every 2 years if patient has low-risk lipid values)
  • Annual serum creatinine (blood test) to assess kidney function
  • Annual albumin-to-creatinine ratio (urine test) in patients with type 1 diabetes greater than 5 years and in all patients with type 2 diabetes
  • Annual dilated eye exam
  • Annual dental/oral exam
  • Annual comprehensive foot exam
  • Annual flu immunization
  • Pneumoccocal immunization


The West Virginia Diabetes Prevention and Control Program


Diabetes has escalated to epidemic proportions in West Virginia, where approximately 12% of adults have been diagnosed with diabetes by a health care professional.  West Virginians have also experienced higher prevalence of co-morbid conditions such as obesity, physical inactivity, hypertension and hyperlipidemia. The estimated number of persons with diabetes in West Virginia is 229,379; 62,162 of whom are undiagnosed. Access to diabetes education, care and management is limited and/or non-existent in many rural areas of West Virginia.  People who are poor, undereducated, and live in rural areas are therefore more likely to have devastating diabetes consequences.  The social, psychological, physical and economic costs associated with diabetes, create a burden for individuals, families, the state and the nation.

The primary mission of the West Virginia Diabetes Prevention and Control Program (WV DPCP)  is to improve the quality of life for persons with diabetes living in West Virginia. This mission is accomplished through the National Diabetes Program goals as set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: 1-to prevent diabetes, 2-to prevent the complications, disabilities, and burden associated with diabetes, 3-to eliminate diabetes-related health disparities. 


Copyright 2006 West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources - Privacy Statement