Diabetes is a condition that occurs when the body can’t use glucose (a type of sugar) normally. Glucose is the main source of energy for the body’s cells. The levels of glucose in the blood are controlled by a hormone called insulin, which is made by the pancreas. Insulin helps glucose to enter the cells.
Diabetes is caused when there is resistance to, or deficient production of insulin, which helps glucose move from the blood into the body’s cells. When the body does not produce or use enough insulin, the cells cannot use the glucose for energy and the blood glucose level rises. This means that the body will instead start to break down its own fat and muscle for energy.1
Globally, there has been a dramatic increase in the prevalence of diabetes. It is estimated that if the current world wide trend prevails, there will be 380 million people affected by diabetes by the year 2025.2 Even though diabetes affects nearly 4% of the world’s population,3 many people know very little about the disease.
There are 2 primary types of diabetes:
Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children or young adults, although it can occur at any age. Approximately 10-15% of all people with diabetes in Australia are diagnosed with Type 1.1
The onset of type 1 diabetes is often sudden and can include the following symptoms:
Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body’s immune system destroys the beta cells found in the pancreas—the cells that create insulin. As a result, the body makes very little or no insulin of its own.
A person with type 1 diabetes supplies their body with insulin in one of the following ways:
Insulin therapy along with following a healthy meal-plan, regular physical activity and frequent blood glucose testing are important in the management of type 1 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes accounts for more than 85-90% of people with diabetes in Australia.1 In type 2 diabetes, the pancreas may make enough insulin, but the body cannot effectively use the insulin it creates. This is known as insulin resistance. Eventually, the pancreas may stop producing insulin altogether.
Type 2 diabetes traditionally affects people later in life, but can affect people at any age.
Additional risk factors or characteristics for type 2 diabetes include
Some population groups are at much higher risk. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are 3 times more likely to have diabetes than other Australians. People born in North Africa, Middle East, South East Asia, Southern and Eastern Europe also have higher rates of diabetes than those born in Australia.3
Because type 2 diabetes develops slowly and is often hard to detect, many people are not diagnosed until various complications appear. One-third of all people with diabetes may be undiagnosed.2
Depending on its severity, type 2 diabetes can be managed through diet and physical activity, oral medications, or insulin injections, though a combination of these therapies are often prescribed. Self-monitoring of your blood glucose can help measure the success of your therapy.
Hyperglycaemia, or high blood glucose, occurs when levels rise above your recommended range. Your healthcare professional will determine the proper healthy blood glucose range for you.
High blood glucose can be caused by many things, including:
High blood glucose can cause serious problems and is a major cause of long-term diabetes complications. Some warning signs of high blood glucose include:
It is important to keep your blood glucose level within your recommended target range. Checking your blood glucose often may help you avoid hyperglycaemia.Back to Top
Hypoglycaemia occurs when your blood glucose level drops too low.
The body responds to low blood glucose levels with warning signs that may be different in each person. Some warning signs of low blood glucose are feeling:
Low blood glucose may occur if your meal or snack is delayed or missed, after vigorous physical activity, or if too much insulin is given. In a person without diabetes, the pancreas will stop producing insulin if the blood glucose level falls below normal. In a person with diabetes, the insulin they inject or pump keeps working, even when the blood glucose level is low.
Low blood glucose may be caused by the following:
Regular testing may help you avoid hypoglycaemia. Low blood glucose can happen very quickly, so you should be prepared to act fast to correct it. If untreated, hypoglycaemia can cause serious effects, such as seizures or unconsciousness.
Someone who is having seizures or who has passed out will need help from others. People at this severe stage will need an immediate glucagon injection. A healthcare professional must prescribe glucagon and show you and your loved ones how to prepare and inject glucagon.
A hormone produced by the alpha cells of the pancreas which increases blood glucose levels.
Gestational diabetes occurs when pregnancy hormones and weight gain block a woman’s body's ability to use insulin properly. This type of diabetes can affect women who have never had diabetes. Gestational diabetes may affect as many as 7% of pregnant women.1
Gestational diabetes can lead to high blood pressure for the mother and high birth weight for the baby. Although this type of diabetes usually goes away after the baby is born, there is also an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes for both mother and baby in the future. Your baby may also be at higher risk of childhood obesity.2
These risks can be reduced by maintaining a reasonable weight, staying physically active and making healthy food choices. Breast-feeding may lower your baby’s risk for type 2 diabetes as well. See your healthcare professional to create a management plan that is right for you and your baby.
A condition in which high blood glucose levels develop during pregnancy in women who were not previously diabetic; diagnosed at 24-28 weeks gestation; levels usually return to normal after delivery, but mothers with gestational diabetes may be at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.