What is it?

March 2, 2016

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a condition where the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood is too high, because the body isn’t converting glucose into energy as it should. To reduce blood glucose levels, the body tries to do this by flushing out the excess glucose through urine. It can cause serious health problems if it’s not treated. There are two Types of Diabetes – Type 1 and Type 2.

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented with good diet or a healthy lifestyle. There is a possible genetic link but for 90% of young people with Type 1 diabetes there is no family history of diabetes – so we are just not sure why it happens to some people and not others. What we do know is that it isn’t caused by anything that the person did or didn’t do; there is nothing that can be done to prevent it. For reasons we don’t yet fully understand yet, the immune system (which is meant to protect you from viruses and bacteria) attacks and destroys the insulin which is produced by the pancreas (behind the stomach). The thing is – insulin is crucial to life; it’s a hormone (a chemical messenger) that carefully controls the amount of glucose in the blood. When you eat, insulin moves the energy from your food, called glucose, from your blood into the cells of your body. When the pancreas fails to produce insulin, glucose levels in your blood start to rise and your body can’t function properly. Over time this high level of glucose in the blood may damage nerves and blood vessels and the organs they supply.

Glucose comes from food like potatoes, rice and pasta and gives the body energy, and insulin acts as a ‘key’ to the ‘lock’ in the cells that need glucose. The cells use glucose as fuel for your body.

When you have diabetes, the glucose in your body is not turned into energy. This means that the glucose stays locked outside the cells, making you feel tired and unwell. You feel tired because your body isn’t making enough insulin – or in some cases none at all.

People with Type 1 diabetes need to test their blood glucose regularly and inject insulin daily to stay healthy. This is either via an insulin ‘pen’ which is a small needle device or an insulin pump which automatically pumps insulin in via a Bluetooth device.

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 Diabetes is having not enough insulin or the insulin isn’t working properly, so the cells are only partially unlocked and glucose builds up in the blood. The signs and symptoms might not be so obvious, because the condition develops slowly over a period of years. Unlike Type 1 diabetes we know that having a healthy lifestyle, dramatically reduce your risk of Type 2 diabetes and so in some cases be prevented or even reversed; treated with a healthy diet and increased physical activity, sometimes alongside medication and/or insulin, symptoms are quickly relieved and can become under control.

Signs and Symptoms of Diabetes

  • Increased thirst (drinking a lot)
  • Increased urination (weeing a lot)
  • Weight loss
  • Extreme tiredness

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