Home Guide to diabetes What is diabetes?

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a common life-long health condition. There are 3.5 million people diagnosed with diabetes in the UK and an estimated 549,000 people who have the condition, but don’t know it.

What happens when you have diabetes?

Diabetes is a condition where the amount of glucose in your blood is too high because the body cannot use it properly.

 

This is because your pancreas doesn’t produce any insulin, or not enough insulin, to help glucose enter your body’s cells – or the insulin that is produced does not work properly (known as insulin resistance).

  • Insulin is the hormone produced by the pancreas that allows glucose to enter the body’s cells, where it is used as fuel for energy so we can work, play and generally live our lives. It is vital for life.
  • Glucose comes from digesting carbohydrate and is also produced by the liver. 
  • If you have diabetes, your body cannot make proper use of this glucose so it builds up in the blood and can’t be used as fuel.
  • There are two main types of diabetes: Type 1 diabetes and Type 2 diabetes.
 

Diabetes develops when glucose can’t enter the body’s cells to be used as fuel. This happens when either:

  • There is no insulin to unlock the cells (Type 1)
  • There is not enough insulin or the insulin is there but not
    working properly (Type 2).
In the case of Type 1 diabetes, there is no key (insulin) to unlock the door to the cells or in Type 2 diabetes, the insulin is unable to unlock the door properly and/or the key is there but the lock doesn't work properly

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