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What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a metabolic disorder. This means that the way our bodies use digested food for growth and energy is disrupted. Usually when we eat, food components are turned into glucose (or sugar) and are used by the body for energy. In diabetes the process of getting glucose into the body’s tissues (such as muscle) no longer works properly.

In a healthy body, the pancreas produces a hormone called insulin. Insulin is essential for getting glucose into body tissues so it can be used for energy or stored for future use.

When diabetes occurs, three mechanisms may not be functioning:

The pancreas may not be able to produce insulin.

The pancreas may not be able to produce enough insulin to respond to the body’s needs.

The pancreas may be producing some insulin but the body in unable to use this insulin properly. This is also known as insulin resistance.

As a result, people with diabetes have too much glucose in their blood. If left unchecked, the buildup of glucose may eventually damage organs including the eyes, kidneys, nerves or heart. By maintaining healthy blood glucose levels, people with diabetes can live long and healthy lives.

Types of Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is when the pancreas no longer produces any insulin. This is usually first diagnosed at a young age, the teen years or early adulthood. It occurs in about 10% of people with diabetes. Insulin must be injected to keep blood glucose regulated.

Type 2 diabetes occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or when there is some insulin resistance. Type 2 diabetes usually develops in adulthood, although it can develop earlier in some high-risk populations. The majority of people with diabetes have type 2. A healthy diet, weight control, physical activity and stress reduction may help prevent or delay the onset of the disease. It is also important to note that many people with type 2 diabetes may display no symptoms.

Gestational diabetes is a temporary condition that occurs during pregnancy. It affects two to four percent of all pregnancies. Often there is an increased risk of both mother and baby developing diabetes later on.

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