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Diabetes diagnosis, treatment and care

Diabetes is a chronic disease that causes the level of glucose (sugar) in your blood to get too high. Your pancreas constantly produces a hormone called insulin that moves blood glucose to your cells to use for energy. Someone with diabetes doesn’t create enough insulin or process it efficiently. There are three main types of diabetes – type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes.

At HealthPartners and Park Nicollet, we’re working to advance diabetes treatment and improve our patients’ daily lives. We have a team of board-certified endocrinologists, physician assistants, nurse practitioners and diabetes specialists along with our International Diabetes Center experts who focus on the latest research and technology to provide our patients the latest in diabetes care.

Our diabetes specialists include registered nurses, registered dietitian nutritionists, certified diabetes educators, pharmacists, psychologists, other behavioral health professionals, social workers and care coordinators. We work together to provide you all the information you need to understand your disease and develop a treatment and lifestyle plan that works for you.

Make an appointment

Haven’t seen an endocrinologist before? We recommend scheduling a primary care appointment. Our primary care doctors are experts at diagnosing hundreds of conditions, including diabetes.

If your primary care doctor recommended you see a specialist, you can easily make an appointment by calling us. You can also schedule online.

What we treat

  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Prediabetes
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Maturity-onset diabetes of the young (MODY)

Symptoms of diabetes

Diabetes symptoms vary based on the type of diabetes and severity of the disease. People with gestational diabetes or those in the early stages of type 2 diabetes may have symptoms so mild they go unnoticed. Their diabetes is often diagnosed as part of preventive or routine screenings.

The early symptoms of diabetes, such as feeling very thirsty or hungry and urinating more often, are also common signs of other health conditions. We recommend scheduling an appointment with one of our primary care doctors to get started. They are experts in diagnosing hundreds of conditions and routinely screen for, diagnose and treat diabetes.

Anytime you have new or unusual symptoms that you’re concerned about or that are worsening, call your doctor’s office to decide on next steps.

Diagnosing diabetes

If your doctor thinks you have diabetes, they’ll ask you questions about your medical history and symptoms and order blood tests to measure the amount of glucose in your blood.

Doctors commonly use the A1C test to determine whether you have diabetes. The test examines how much glucose is in your red blood cells (hemoglobin) to measure your average glucose level over 2-3 months.

Type 1 diabetes

If you have type 1 diabetes, your immune system prevents your pancreas from making the insulin your body needs to process food into energy. Without insulin being properly processed, your glucose levels can become dangerously high.

Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in childhood or as a young adult but may occur at any age. Doctors don’t know what causes type 1 diabetes. Some evidence suggests that genetics and environmental factors may play a role.

Treating type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is a lifelong disease that requires careful daily management to keep your blood sugar at a healthy level. With type 1 diabetes you can’t make your own insulin. So treatment involves checking your blood sugar levels throughout the day and taking the right dose of insulin using injections or an insulin pump.

Healthy eating and regular physical activity are also key aspects of diabetes treatment. You’ll need to monitor how many carbohydrates are in the foods and beverages you eat and drink to keep your blood sugar at a healthy level. There are a number of ways to balance carbohydrate choices and insulin. Our diabetes specialists will help you develop an individualized healthy eating plan.

Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes. The chance of being diagnosed increases as you get older, especially after age 45.

In type 2 diabetes, your body doesn’t use insulin properly (insulin resistance). Risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes include being overweight, older age, and family history along with a sedentary lifestyle.

Treating type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic disease. The good news is that it can be well managed by taking oral medications and making healthy changes to your weight, eating habits and physical activity.

We’ll help you understand your glucose levels and work with you to recommend the best diabetes treatment and lifestyle plan for managing your diabetes.


Prediabetes is a condition that increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. If you have prediabetes, your glucose levels are higher than normal, a sign your body is having trouble properly using insulin.

If you receive a diagnosis of prediabetes, most clinicians recommend checking your glucose every 6 to 12 months. More frequent screening may be recommended based on family medical history and lifestyle factors.

Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have and ask for recommendations you can make in your weight, eating habits and physical activity. By making healthy lifestyle changes, you can help prevent your prediabetes from becoming diabetes.

Gestational diabetes

Gestational diabetes develops during pregnancy, and like the other types of diabetes, it affects the way your body uses glucose in your blood. Doctors aren’t sure what causes gestational diabetes, but believe pregnancy may affect how some mothers process insulin.

Because gestational diabetes can pose health risks to both baby and mother, our OB-GYNs monitor expecting mothers closely and do a specific glucose test between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy. If the test determines you have gestational diabetes, our OB-GYNs can connect you with our team of diabetes specialists to help you manage it throughout your pregnancy.

Treating gestational diabetes first involves making changes in your eating habits and physical activity to maintain healthy glucose levels. If those changes aren’t enough, our doctors may recommend beginning medication.

In gestational diabetes, glucose levels usually return to normal after the baby is born. However, it’s common to check glucose levels until your postpartum (after birth) follow-up visit with your clinician, or longer, to make sure they go back to normal.

As a first step, we recommend scheduling an appointment with our primary care team. Our primary care doctors are experts at diagnosing hundreds of conditions and routinely diagnose and treat diabetes.

If your primary care doctor recommended you see a specialist, please choose an option below:

Frequently asked questions about diabetes