Report of the Expert Committee on the Diagnosis and Classification of Diabetes Mellitus

The Expert Committee on the Diagnosis and Classification of Diabetes Mellitus*

Diabetes Care. 2000;23(1s) 

In This Article

Definition And Description Of Diabetes Mellitus

Diabetes mellitus is a group of metabolic diseases characterized by hyperglycemia resulting from defects in insulin secretion, insulin action, or both. The chronic hyperglycemia of diabetes is associated with long-term damage, dysfunction, and failure of various organs, especially the eyes, kidneys, nerves, heart, and blood vessels.

Several pathogenic processes are involved in the development of diabetes. These range from autoimmune destruction of the beta-cells of the pancreas with consequent insulin deficiency to abnormalities that result in resistance to insulin action. The basis of the abnormalities in carbohydrate, fat, and protein metabolism in diabetes is deficient action of insulin on target tissues. Deficient insulin action results from inadequate insulin secretion and/or diminished tissue responses to insulin at one or more points in the complex pathways of hormone action. Impairment of insulin secretion and defects in insulin action frequently coexist in the same patient, and it is often unclear which abnormality, if either alone, is the primary cause of the hyperglycemia.

Symptoms of marked hyperglycemia include polyuria, polydipsia, weight loss, sometimes with polyphagia, and blurred vision. Impairment of growth and susceptibility to certain infections may also accompany chronic hyperglycemia. Acute, life-threatening consequences of diabetes are hyperglycemia with ketoacidosis or the nonketotic hyperosmolar syndrome.

Long-term complications of diabetes include retinopathy with potential loss of vision; nephropathy leading to renal failure; peripheral neuropathy with risk of foot ulcers, amputation, and Charcot joints; and autonomic neuropathy causing gastrointestinal, genitourinary, and cardiovascular symptoms and sexual dysfunction. Glycation of tissue proteins and other macromolecules and excess production of polyol compounds from glucose are among the mechanisms thought to produce tissue damage from chronic hyperglycemia. Patients with diabetes have an increased incidence of atherosclerotic cardiovascular, peripheral vascular, and cerebrovascular disease. Hypertension, abnormalities of lipoprotein metabolism, and periodontal disease are often found in people with diabetes. The emotional and social impact of diabetes and the demands of therapy may cause significant psychosocial dysfunction in patients and their families.

The vast majority of cases of diabetes fall into two broad etiopathogenetic categories (discussed in greater detail below). In one category (type 1 diabetes), the cause is an absolute deficiency of insulin secretion. Individuals at increased risk of developing this type of diabetes can often be identified by serological evidence of an autoimmune pathologic process occurring in the pancreatic islets and by genetic markers. In the other, much more prevalent category (type 2 diabetes), the cause is a combination of resistance to insulin action and an inadequate compensatory insulin secretory response. In the latter category, a degree of hyperglycemia sufficient to cause pathologic and functional changes in various target tissues, but without clinical symptoms, may be present for a long period of time before diabetes is detected. During this asymptomatic period, it is possible to demonstrate an abnormality in carbohydrate metabolism by measurement of plasma glucose in the fasting state or after a challenge with an oral glucose load.

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