(Last updated 5/7/2014; last reviewed 5/7/2014)
Diabetes is a disorder that makes it hard for the body to process glucose (sugar) for growth and energy. Glucose comes from the breakdown of the foods we eat. People who have diabetes may have too much glucose in their blood.
If not controlled, diabetes can lead to serious complications, including heart and blood vessel disease, nerve damage, blindness, and kidney disease. Fortunately, diabetes can be controlled with diet, exercise, and medicines.
Glucose is carried in the blood to cells throughout the body. A hormone called insulin helps move the glucose into the cells. Once in the cells, glucose is used to make energy. When the body has trouble moving glucose into the cells, glucose builds up in the blood and can lead to diabetes.
There are two types of diabetes: type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes develops when the body does not make any (or enough) insulin. In type 2 diabetes, the body makes enough insulin but can’t use it effectively to move glucose into the cells. Type 2 diabetes is more common than type 1 diabetes.
Risk factors for diabetes include a family history of diabetes, being overweight, and lack of physical activity. In people with HIV, use of some HIV medicines may increase blood glucose and lead to type 2 diabetes.
Usually the symptoms of insulin resistance are mild and may not be noticeable. Symptoms of insulin resistance may include:
The symptoms of diabetes can include:
A common test used to diagnose diabetes is called a fasting glucose test. The test measures the amount of glucose in the blood after a person has not eaten for 8 hours.
People with HIV should have their blood glucose levels checked before starting treatment with HIV medicines. People with higher-than-normal glucose levels may need to avoid taking some HIV medicines.
Blood glucose testing is also important after starting HIV medicines. If testing shows high glucose levels, a change in HIV medicines may be necessary.
Diabetes can be controlled with diet, exercise, and medicines.
A healthy diet includes lots of vegetables, some fruit, and lean meats and is low in processed foods high in sugar and salt.
Regular exercise means being active for a half an hour on most days of the week. Diet and exercise can help a person reach and maintain a healthy weight.
Sometimes, in addition to a healthy diet and regular physical activity, medicines are needed to control diabetes. Controlling diabetes in people with HIV may include avoiding some HIV medicines and using other HIV medicines instead.
If you have HIV, talk to your health care provider about your risk for diabetes. Ask your health care provider about the link between HIV infection and HIV medicines and diabetes and about testing for diabetes.