Diabetes (diabetes mellitus) overview
Diabetes (diabetes mellitus) is characterised by a group of metabolic health conditions that influence how the body uses glucose (sugar) and the hormone, insulin. Glucose is a vital energy source for the body’s cells which make up tissues and muscles. It is also the brain’s primary fuel source and is thus vital for your health.
An excess amount of glucose in the bloodstream can mean that you have diabetes (any type). Causes of this may differ with the various types, but in all instances of diabetes, the presence of excess glucose can cause severe health concerns.
The pancreas (the organ behind the stomach) normally releases insulin to assist the body with storing and using glucose and fat from the food we eat (insulin allows sugar to travel from the bloodstream into the cells of the body). Diabetes can develop when the pancreas produces little or no insulin, or in other cases, when the body does not respond appropriately to insulin produced.
Typical signs that this is happening include excessive thirst, hunger and urination, as well as fatigue, sores or cuts that are slow-healing, and blurry vision. Diabetes can develop quickly (typically only type 1), but it’s not uncommon for diabetes to develop slowly too and only be diagnosed when symptoms of longer-term health concerns arise, such as heart conditions, numbness and tingling sensations in the feet.
Diabetes is a chronic condition (type 1 and type 2), for which there is, as yet, no cure. Reversible diabetes include prediabetes (blood sugar levels appear higher than normal, but not enough to be diagnosed as diabetes) and gestational diabetes (may arise during pregnancy but typically resolves once the baby is born and the body returns to normal).
Long-term health concerns commonly linked to diabetes include kidney failure, blindness and nerve damage.
A person diagnosed with diabetes needs to manage their condition on a continuous (daily) basis to lead a healthy lifestyle.