What is diabetes?

Diabetes is the condition in which the body does not properly process food for use as energy. Most of the food we eat is turned into glucose, or sugar, for our bodies to use for energy. The pancreas, an organ that lies near the stomach, makes a hormone called insulin to help glucose get into the cells of our bodies. When you have diabetes, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use its own insulin as well as it should. This causes sugars to build up in your blood. This is why many people refer to diabetes as “sugar.”

Diabetes can cause serious health complications including heart disease, blindness, kidney failure, and lower-extremity amputations. Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States.

What are the symptoms of diabetes?

People who think they might have diabetes must visit a physician for diagnosis. They might have SOME or NONE of the following symptoms:

  • Frequent urination
  • Excessive thirst
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Extreme hunger
  • Sudden vision changes
  • Tingling or numbness in hands or feet
  • Feeling very tired much of the time
  • Very dry skin
  • Sores that are slow to heal
  • More infections than usual

Nausea, vomiting, or stomach pains may accompany some of these symptoms in the abrupt onset of insulin-dependent diabetes, now called Type 1 diabetes.

What are the types of diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes, previously called insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM) or juvenile-onset diabetes, may account for 5 percent to 10 percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes. Risk factors are less well defined for Type 1 diabetes than for Type 2 diabetes, but autoimmune, genetic, and environmental factors are involved in the development of this type of diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes was previously called non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) or adult-onset diabetes. Type 2 diabetes may account for about 90 percent to 95 percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes. Risk factors for Type 2 diabetes include older age, obesity, family history of diabetes, prior history of gestational diabetes, impaired glucose tolerance, physical inactivity, and race/ethnicity. African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians, and some Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are at particularly high risk for type 2 diabetes.

Gestational diabetes develops in 2 percent to 5 percent of all pregnancies but usually disappears when a pregnancy is over. Gestational diabetes occurs more frequently in African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians, and people with a family history of diabetes than in other groups. Obesity is also associated with higher risk. Women who have had gestational diabetes are at increased risk for later developing Type 2 diabetes. In some studies, nearly 40 percent of women with a history of gestational diabetes developed diabetes in the future.

Other specific types of diabetes result from specific genetic syndromes, surgery, drugs, malnutrition, infections, and other illnesses. Such types of diabetes may account for 1 percent to 2 percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes.

Can diabetes be prevented?

A number of studies have shown that regular physical activity can significantly reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is also associated with obesity.

Diabetes Tele-education Programs

Many people would like to get their diabetes in better control, but don’t know how to do it. It’s not as hard as you might think.  In partnership with the University of Virginia, we are offering these tele-education classes so that you can learn about diabetes from the comfort of your home or by attending an in-person course.

All four classes will be taught by experienced, Certified Diabetes Educators from the University of Virginia Diabetes Education and Management Program. The programs will be broadcast live from UVA using telehealth technology that allows the educators to speak directly with those attending the class and answer their individual questions.

Don’t miss this opportunity to get reliable, research-based information on how to better care for your diabetes and to get your questions answered. You will be glad you did because people who keep their blood glucose as close to normal as possible have fewer problems with their eyes, nerves, and kidneys, and fewer heart problems later in life.  Classes are available at your local health department.


All LENOWISCO health department offices are open from 8:00 AM to 4:45 PM, Monday – Friday. All offices are closed for state holidays.  For specific health service times, see information below.

Lee County
Health Department (Map)
Wise County and City of Norton Health Department (Map) Scott County
Health Department (Map)
134 Hill ST

P.O. Box 247

Jonesville, VA  24263

Phone: (276)-346-2011

Fax: (276)-346-0401


134 Roberts ST SW

Wise, VA  24293

Phone: (276)-328-8000

Fax: (276)-376-1020

190 Beech ST

Suite 102

Gate City, VA  24251

Phone: (276)-386-1312

Fax: (276)-386-2116

No Walk-ins On: THURSDAYS No Walk-ins On: WEDNESDAYS No Walk-ins On: MONDAYS
Extended Evening Hour Clinics are available each month: 4:45—8:00 pm
First Monday Each Month Third Thursday Each Month Second Thursday Each Month