Diabetes is a long-term (chronic) condition caused by too much glucose (sugar) in the blood. It is also known as diabetes mellitus.
In the UK, diabetes affects approximately 2.3 million people, and it’s thought there are at least half a million more people who have the condition but are not aware of it.
How does diabetes occur?
Normally, the amount of sugar in the blood is controlled by a hormone called insulin, which is produced by the pancreas (a gland behind the stomach). When food is digested and enters your bloodstream, insulin moves any glucose out of the blood and into cells, where it is broken down to produce energy.
However, in those with diabetes, the body is unable to break down glucose into energy. This is because there is either not enough insulin to move the glucose, or because the insulin that is there does not work properly.
There are two types of diabetes – type 1 and type 2. This article focuses on type 1 diabetes (go to ‘useful links’ for information about type 2 diabetes).
TYPE 1 DIABETES
Results from the body’s failure to produce insulin, the hormone that “unlocks” the cells of the body, allowing glucose to enter and fuel them.
Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults, and was previously known as juvenile diabetes. In type 1 diabetes, the body does not produce insulin. Insulin is a hormone that is needed to convert sugar (glucose), starches and other food into energy needed for daily life.
Finding out you have diabetes is scary. But don’t panic. Type 1 diabetes is serious, but people with diabetes can live long, healthy, happy lives.
TYPE 2 DIABETES
Results from insulin resistance (a condition in which the body fails to properly use insulin), combined with relative insulin deficiency.
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. In type 2 diabetes, either the body does not produce enough insulin or the cells ignore the insulin. Insulin is necessary for the body to be able to use glucose for energy. When you eat food, the body breaks down all of the sugars and starches into glucose, which is the basic fuel for the cells in the body. Insulin takes the sugar from the blood into the cells. When glucose builds up in the blood instead of going into cells, it can cause two problems:
Right away, your cells may be starved for energy.
Over time, high blood glucose levels may hurt your eyes, kidneys, nerves or heart.
Finding out you have diabetes is scary. But don’t panic. Type 2 diabetes is serious, but people with diabetes can live long, healthy, happy lives.
While diabetes occurs in people of all ages and races, some groups have a higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes than others. Type 2 diabetes is more common in Asians, African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, and Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders, as well as the aged population.
Immediately after pregnancy, 5% to 10% of women with gestational diabetes are found to have diabetes, usually, type 2.
Pre-diabetes is a condition that occurs when a person’s blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough for a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.
Conditions and Treatment
In type 2 diabetes, the body fails to properly use insulin, which is needed to take sugar from the blood to the cells. You can learn more about some conditions (including hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia) and how to prevent them in this section. You will also find helpful information about insulin, diagnostic tests and tips on what to expect from your health care provider.
Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, can happen even during those times when you’re doing all you can to control your diabetes.
Hyperglycemia is a major cause of many of the complications that happen to people who have diabetes. For this reason, it’s important to know what hyperglycemia is, what its symptoms are, and how to treat it.
Checking Your Blood Glucose
People with diabetes work to keep their blood sugar (glucose) as near to normal as possible. Keeping your blood glucose in your target range can help prevent or delay the start of diabetes complications such as nerve, eye, kidney, and blood vessel damage.When you learned you had diabetes, you and your health care team worked out a diabetes care plan. The plan aims to balance the foods you eat with your exercise and, possibly, diabetes pills or insulin. You can do two types of checks to help keep track of how your plan is working. These are blood glucose checks and urine ketone checks.