Having diabetes means your body doesn't make enough insulin or doesn't use insulin properly. Insulin is a hormone made by a gland near your stomach called the pancreas. Your body changes the food you eat into a sugar called glucose. Glucose is the fuel your body needs for all your activities, whether it’s eating, reading, walking or running. Your body uses insulin to carry glucose from your bloodstream into your cells.
When you have diabetes, glucose isn't carried properly to your cells so too much stays in your bloodstream. This is called hyperglycaemia or high blood glucose. Left untreated, high blood glucose can cause a lot of damage to your body.
There are three basic types of diabetes:
- Type 1 Diabetes - Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder, which means that the body makes antibodies against itself. In the case of diabetes, these antibodies attack the pancreas so it can no longer produce insulin. Type 1 diabetes usually occurs in children and young adults. It is sometimes known as Juvenile Diabetes.
- Type 2 Diabetes – A condition that usually occurs in people over the age of 40 but is increasingly occurring at earlier ages. In type 2 diabetes, your body makes less insulin or your cells resist the insulin that it makes. Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disease, which means it affects how energy is used in the body.
- Gestational Diabetes – Gestational diabetes is high blood glucose that can occur in a small number of pregnant women who have never been diagnosed with diabetes. Hormone changes in pregnancy can cause insulin resistance and, therefore, a small number of women develop gestational diabetes as it is more difficult for their body to use insulin during this time.
In Type 1 Diabetes, your body doesn’t make any, or enough, insulin. This is because Type 1 diabetes is what’s known as an auto-immune disease, when your body’s antibodies prevent your own cells from working normally, in this case targeting the islet cells in the pancreas that make insulin. If your pancreas can’t make insulin, then not enough glucose can get into your cells, and your body runs out of the energy it needs.
If you have Type 2 diabetes, it means your body cannot make enough of your own insulin or your body can no longer respond as well to the insulin that you are making: this is called insulin resistance. Often it’s a combination of these two things.
You can help gain control over your diabetes by educating yourself with tools from this site, combining a balanced diet with regular exercise and following the testing and insulin or medication plan prescribed by your healthcare team. Gestational Diabetes usually goes away once the baby is born.
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