We have an advertising relationship with some of the stores we link to on this site. Your prices are not affected!

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic condition. This means that it lasts for a long time, often for someone's whole life. Diabetes is the name given to a group of different conditions in which there is too much glucose in the blood. The pancreas either cannot make insulin or the insulin it does make is not enough and cannot work properly. Without insulin doing its job, glucose builds up in the blood leading to high blood glucose levels which cause the health problems linked to diabetes.

What actually goes wrong?

The body needs a special sugar called glucose as its main source of fuel or energy. A hormone called insulin is essential for the conversion of glucose into energy. So when people with diabetes eat glucose, which is in foods such as, breads, breakfast cereals, rice, pasta, potatoes and milk products, it can’t be converted into energy. Instead of being turned into energy the glucose stays in the blood.  The glucose level must be neither too high nor too low, but just right. This is why blood glucose levels are higher in people with diabetes. Glucose is carried around your body in your blood. The glucose running around in the blood stream now has to get out of the blood and into the body tissues. It is the cells in the body tissues that actually do the work. brain cells so you can think, heart cells so you can pump blood and muscle cells so you can walk. Glucose is also stored in the liver, like you would store food items in the kitchen pantry. Your blood glucose level is called glycaemia.

What is insulin?

  Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas that let glucose go from the blood to the body cells where energy is made. This process is called glucose metabolism. In diabetes, the pancreas either cannot make insulin or the insulin it does make is no tenough and cannot work properly. Without insulin doing its job, the glucose channels are shut. Glucose builds up in the blood leading to high blood glucose levels which cause the health problems linked to diabetes.

Types of diabetes.

Type 1

This is the least common form mainly  affecting children and young adults but it can occur at any age. It is sometimes referred to as juvenile onset diabetes or insulin dependent diabetes. The exact cause  is not yet known, but it appears to have  a strong family link and cannot be prevented. It has nothing to do with lifestyle, although maintaining a healthy lifestyle is very important in managing the disease. 

Without insulin the body burns its own fats as a substitute. Unless sufferers are treated with daily injections of insulin, they may accumulate dangerous chemical substances in their blood from the burning of fat. This can cause a condition known as ketoacidosis. This condition is potentially life threatening if not treated. To stay healthy and alive they will need up to four insulin injections every day of their lives. In addition they must test their blood glucose levels several times daily.

Type 2

In type 2 diabetes, the pancreas usually makes some insulin but not enough for what your body needs and it does not work effectively. It occurs mostly in people aged over 40 years old, however, the disease is also becoming increasingly prevalent in younger age groups.

This is considerd a lifestyle disease affecting 85–90% of all cases. While adults are usually affected, younger people and even children are now getting this "lifestyle" disease. It  is associated with hereditary factors and lifestyle risk factors including poor diet, insufficient physical activity and overweight or obesity  and the classic ‘apple shape’ body where extra weight is carried around the waist.

 People with this condition may be able to manage their condition through lifestyle changes; however, diabetes medications or insulin injections may also be required to control blood sugar levels.  However, over time most people with type 2 diabetes will also need tablets and many will also need insulin. This is just the natural progression of the disease, and taking tablets or insulin as soon as they are required can result in fewer complications in the long-term.

Gestational diabetes

This is not common and it only  occurs in pregnant women who have never had diabetes before but who have high blood sugar levels during pregnancy. Gestational diabetes affects about 4% of all pregnant women. After childbirth the mother may go on to develop type 2 diabetes.


This information has been sourced from Diabetes Australia, News Medical Please visit them for more detailed information on the subject.

Other helpful sites include Kids Health  American Diabetes Association  Diabetes UK  Canadian Diabetes Association