Introduction to diabetes

15 January 2017

Diabetes is a chronic condition in which the level of sugar in the blood is too high.

According to NHS Choices there are 2.9 million people diagnosed with diabetes in the UK and an estimated 850,000 people who have the condition, but don’t know it.

In 2011, the estimated number of people living with diabetes worldwide was 366 million.

This figure is expected to rise to affect 552 million by 2030.

There are two types of diabetes:

Type 1 (also known as insulin-dependent diabetes, early onset diabetes, or juvenile diabetes). This type of diabetes accounts for 10% of all people with diabetes.

Type 2 – the most common type of diabetes, accounting for 90% of all diabetes cases.

Normally, a hormone called insulin is produced by specialised cells in regions called the islets of Langerhans within the pancreas (a leaf-shaped organ found behind the stomach.)

Insulin helps the body use and store the glucose (sugar) in the bloodstream that has been provided by the food and drink we have consumed. Glucose gives us energy and is vital for our body to function.

If there is insufficient or no insulin produced or the body is unable to use the insulin effectively, then the level of glucose in the blood begins to rise. An elevated blood glucose level is termed hyperglycaemia. Excess glucose is then passed out in our urine, something that would not normally happen. Without insulin to help the glucose to be used for energy the body then looks for other sources and starts to break down fat and muscle instead.