Diabetes is the sixth most common cause of death in the United States. The “diabetes epidemic” continues to develop, with an astounding burden in acute and chronic complications, disability, and death.

According to the CDC, “diabetes is a group of diseases marked by high levels of blood glucose resulting from defects in insulin production, insulin action, or both.”

Type 1 diabetes develops when the body's immune system destroys the cells in the body that make the hormone insulin. Insulin is responsible for regulating blood glucose. Therefore, people with type 1 diabetes must have insulin delivered by injection or a pump.

Type 2 diabetes usually begins as a disorder in which the cells do not use insulin properly. As the need for insulin rises, the pancreas gradually loses its ability to produce it. Type 2 diabetes accounts for about 90% to 95% of all diabetes cases.

A new study published in the current issue of Diabetes Care projects that the diabetes population and diabetes-associated costs will at least double between 2009 and 2034. More specifically, the number of people with diabetes will increase from 23.7 million to 44.1 million. During the same period, annual diabetes-related costs are expected to increase from $113 billion to $336 billion.

Moreover, the study estimates that for people 65 and over, the diabetes population is expected to rise from 8.2 million in 2009 to 14.6 million in 2034, while spending is estimated to rise from $45 billion to $171 billion.

The main reason behind the expected increases in costs is that in 25 years, many people would have had diabetes for a long period of time. Therefore they will have more opportunities to develop serious diabetes-related complications such as kidney disease, foot amputations and blindness. Unless major changes happen in how we prevent and treat diabetes in this country, it will certainly have significant impacts on our lives and on the financial viability of our healthcare system.