Diabetes is a general term for conditions that cause the body’s blood glucose (sugar) levels to rise higher than normal. Diabetes can lead to serious problems with the heart, kidneys, circulatory system, and eyes, but these issues often can be avoided by carefully managing the disease. Many people with diabetes lead healthy and full lives, with help from their primary care physician, diabetes specialist (endocrinologists and nephrologists), and a complete diabetes care team.

Types of diabetes

  • Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of the disease. It happens when the body doesn’t properly respond to insulin, which is a hormone (chemical) produced by beta cells in the body that helps turn food into energy and controls blood sugar levels. At first, the beta cells produce extra insulin to make up for the increased insulin demand, which may be caused by obesity or other conditions. Over time, however, the body is no longer able to maintain normal blood glucose levels.

    The treatment for type 2 diabetes varies depending on age, severity, medical history, and even personal preferences, but it usually requires lifestyle changes such as increased physical activity, dietary changes, and weight loss. If lifestyle changes are not enough, oral or injected medications (including insulin) can help control blood glucose levels and prevent more serious medical problems.
  • Type 1 diabetes, previously known as juvenile diabetes, is often diagnosed in children and young adults, but it can develop at any age. Type 1 diabetes accounts for about 5% of all people with diabetes. It occurs when the body’s immune system attacks and kills the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. People with type 1 diabetes must have daily insulin injections or use an insulin pump, and they must closely monitor their blood sugar levels.
  • Diabetes in pregnant women who did not have diabetes before pregnancy is called gestational diabetes, and it affects about 2-10% of pregnancies in the United States. The condition usually goes away after the baby is delivered, but it puts these women at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the future.

Signs and Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of diabetes can vary based on age, the type of diabetes, and other factors, but the most common ones include:

  • Frequent urination, often at night
  • Thirst
  • Losing weight without trying
  • Blurry vision
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Slow-healing sores/wounds
  • Having more infections than usual

UAB Diabetes Clinics

Diabetes is not a simple disease to treat. It affects numerous organ systems throughout the body and requires a comprehensive approach and ongoing care. The UAB Diabetes Clinics – located at The Kirklin Clinic of UAB Hospital and with satellite locations in Gardendale, Leeds, and Hoover – are staffed by experts in multiple medical specialties who help patients manage their disease.

Our experienced providers can help patients reduce their number of medical appointments and avoid trips to the emergency room or hospital. We work closely with other providers in nutrition, vascular surgery, nephrology, and other specialties to provide complete diabetes care to patients throughout central Alabama. We also help patients better manage their diabetes by recommending devices such as glucose pumps and continuous glucose monitors.

At the UAB Comprehensive Diabetes Center, over 200 researchers are working to better understand the disease, discover new treatments, prevent complications, and improve the lives of people affected by diabetes. The knowledge gained from this cutting-edge research is quickly integrated into the care we provide, so patients benefit from the latest advances in treating both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

Care Providers


Fernando Ovalle, M.D. | Comprehensive Diabetes Care at UAB
Fernando Ovalle, MD | Comprehensive Diabetes Care at UAB
Heart & Vascular | Diabetes and Your Feet
Heart & Vascular | Diabetes and Your Feet

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