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Diabetes is a serious complex condition which can affect the entire body. Diabetes requires daily self-care and complications can have a significant impact on quality of life and can reduce life expectancy. While there is currently no cure for diabetes, a diabetic can live an enjoyable life by learning about the condition and effectively managing it.

How does diabetes affect the body?

When someone has diabetes, their body can’t maintain healthy levels of glucose in the blood. Glucose is a form of sugar which is the main source of energy for our bodies. Unhealthy levels of glucose in the blood can lead to long term and short term health complications including heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, kidney disease, limb amputation due to loss of circulation and neuropathy, depression, anxiety and blindness.

For our bodies to work properly we need to convert glucose (sugar) from food into energy. A hormone called insulin is essential for the conversion of glucose into energy. In people with diabetes, insulin is no longer produced or not produced in sufficient amounts by the body.

So instead of being turned into energy the glucose stays in the blood resulting in high blood glucose levels. It is this failure of the body to balance the glucose and efficiently use it – that causes complications over many years.


In Type 1 diabetes, symptoms are often sudden and can be life-threatening; therefore it is usually diagnosed quite quickly. Type 1 requires injections of Insulin.

Type 2 diabetes develops over a long period of time. During this period of time, insulin resistance begins. This is where the insulin is increasingly ineffective at managing the blood glucose levels.

As a result of this insulin resistance, the pancreas responds by producing greater and greater amounts of insulin, to try and achieve some degree of management of the blood glucose levels. As insulin overproduction occurs over a long period of time, the insulin producing cells in the pancreas wear themselves out, so that by the time someone is diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, they could have lost 50 – 70% of their insulin producing cells.

This means Type 2 diabetes is a combination of ineffective insulin and not enough insulin. When reference is made to Type 2 diabetes as a progressive condition it is about the ongoing destruction of insulin producing cells in the pancreas.

Common general symptoms Type 2 Diabetes include:

  • Continually thirsty
  • Passing more urine
  • Feeling tired and lethargic
  • Always feeling hungry
  • Having cuts that heal slowly
  • Itching, skin infections
  • Blurred vision
  • Unexplained weight loss (type 1) or Gradually putting on weight (type 2)
  • Headaches
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Leg cramps

Check your risk – answer 10 short questions on the diabetes risk calculator.