What is Diabetes? The amount of sugar in the blood is controlled by a hormone called insulin, which is produced by the pancreas. When food is digested and enters the bloodstream, insulin moves glucose out of the blood and into cells, where it is broken down to produce energy. Your body is
unable to break down glucose into energy. This is because there’s either not enough insulin to move the glucose or the insulin produced doesn’t work properly. In type 1 your body’s immune system attacks and destroys the cells that produce insulin. As no insulin is produced, your glucose levels increase, which can seriously damage the body’s organs. Type 1 is often known as insulin-dependent diabetes. It’s also sometimes known as juvenile diabetes because it usually develops before the age of 40, often during the teenage years. Type 1 is less common than Type 2. In the UK, it affects about 10% of all adults with diabetes. If you’re diagnosed with type 1, you’ll need insulin injections for the rest of your life. You’ll also need to pay close attention to certain aspects of your lifestyle and health to ensure your blood glucose levels stay balanced. Type 2 occurs when your body doesn’t produce enough insulin, or the body’s cells don’t react to insulin. This is known as insulin resistance. If you’re diagnosed with type 2, you may be able to control or even reverse your symptoms simply by eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly and monitoring your blood glucose levels. However, as type 2 is a progressive condition, you may eventually need medication, usually in the form of tablets. Type 2 is often associated with obesity. Obesity-relate diabetes is sometimes referred to as maturity-onset diabetes because it’s more common in older people. During pregnancy, some women have such high levels of blood glucose that their body is unable to produce enough insulin to absorb it all. This is known as gestational diabetes and affects up to 18 in 100 women during pregnancy. Pregnancy can also make existing type 1 diabetes worse. Gestational diabetes can increase the risk of health problems developing in an unborn baby, so it’s important to keep your blood glucose levels under control. In most cases, gestational diabetes develops during the second trimester of pregnancy (weeks 14 to 26) and disappears after the baby is born. However, women who have gestational diabetes are at an increased risk (30%) of developing type 2 later in life (compared with a 10% risk for the general population).