Diabetes is a disorder of the body processes that are regulated by insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas. Either the body does not make enough insulin or the insulin produced becomes less effective. People with uncontrolled diabetes have high blood glucose (sugar) levels, which cause damage to organs throughout the body. Diabetes is a major cause of heart disease, kidney problems, blood vessel disease, foot problems and blindness.
There are two common types of diabetes, Type 1 and Type 2. In Type 1 diabetes, the body's immune system attacks the insulin-making cells in the pancreas. Type 2 diabetes is a mixture of reduced insulin levels and insulin being less effective. It is largely caused by lifestyle factors, such as an unhealthy diet, lack of exercise and obesity, as well as inherited factors.
The classic symptoms of diabetes include increased thirst and frequent urination, tiredness and fatigue, and frequent skin and fungal infections. However, these symptoms may not develop until the blood glucose levels become very high, and many people with Type 2 diabetes may initially have no obvious symptoms, despite the ongoing damage to their organs.
Type 1 diabetes is treated with replacement insulin, while Type 2 diabetes is usually managed with diet and exercise, although oral medication and eventually insulin injections may also be needed.