What is diabetes?

For our bodies to work properly we need to maintain healthy levels of glucose in the blood.  Glucose is the main source of energy for our bodies and is carried around the body in the blood stream.  Insulin is a hormone that is produced in the pancreas, and is needed for glucose to enter the cells and be converted to energy.

In people with diabetes, the pancreas doesn’t make any insulin, or enough insulin to work effectively.

Glucose comes from the carbohydrate foods we eat. Carbohydrate foods include bread, pasta, rice, cereals, fruits, starchy vegetables, milk and yoghurt. The body breaks carbohydrates down into glucose which then enters the blood stream. For glucose to enter all the cells in the body and be used for energy, insulin must be available.

For people with diabetes, the glucose stays in the blood instead of being turned into energy. This is why blood glucose levels are higher in people with diabetes. High blood glucose can cause short and long term damage to the body.  Complications can impact many areas of the body including heart, brain, kidneys, eyes and feet.

1 person is diagnosed with diabetes every 5 minutes

1 in four Australian adults has either
diabetes or impaired glucose tolerance

There are two main types of diabetes namely type 1 and type 2

Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas no longer produces the insulin needed, and requires lifelong daily insulin injections or use of an insulin pump, and regular blood glucose level tests.  Type 1 diabetes is one of the most common chronic childhood diseases in developed nations and represents 10% – 15% of all cases of diabetes. Diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes usually occurs in childhood or young adulthood, although it can occur at any age.

Type 2 diabetes occurs when the pancreas is not producing enough insulin and the insulin is not working effectively. Type 2 represents 85 – 90% of all cases of diabetes and is managed by regular physical activity and healthy eating. Over time treatment may progress from lifestyle changes to requiring blood glucose-lowering tablets and/or insulin injections.

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Pre-diabetes is a condition when blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not yet high enough for a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. Left untreated it may develop into type 2 diabetes within five to ten years.

Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes that can occur in pregnancy and mostly disappears after the birth. It is usually found by having a blood test between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy and managed with lifestyle and medications, such as blood-glucose-lowering tablets or insulin. There is an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life, with a 30-50%
chance of developing it within 15 years after pregnancy.