What is Diabetes?

What is diabetes?

Diabetes mellitus, or simply diabetes, is a chronic disease that occurs when the pancreas is no longer able to make insulin, or when the body cannot make good use of the insulin it produces. Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas, that acts like a key to let glucose from the food we eat pass from the blood stream into the cells in the body to produce energy. All carbohydrate foods are broken down into glucose in the blood. Insulin helps glucose get into the cells.

Not being able to produce insulin or use it effectively leads to raised glucose levels in the blood (known as hyperglycaemia). Over the long-term high glucose levels are associated with damage to the body and failure of various organs and tissues. (courtesy of the International Diabetes Federation)

 415 million people live with diabetes worldwide and that is expected to rise to 642 million by 2040 642. Every 6 seconds someone dies from diabetes related complications!

There are three main types of diabetes:

Type 1 diabetes

  • Is an autoimmune disease whereby the pancreatic beta cells (the cells that produce insulin) are destroyed by mistake.
  • Insulin injections are required for survival.
  • Accounts for approximately 10% of all persons with diabetes in Australia.
  • Can occur at any age, although usually before 40 years.

Find out more about Type 1 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes

  • Is characterised by insulin resistance and/ or abnormal insulin secretion.
  • Is the most common form of diabetes accounting for more than 85% of persons with diabetes in Australia.
  • Has a strong genetic (familial) propensity.
  • Develops by lifestyle factors such as obesity and lack of exercise.

Find out more about Type 2 Diabetes

Gestational diabetes

  • Is temporary form of diabetes and only occurs during pregnancy.
  • Higher blood glucose levels are detected during routine screening.
  • The body is unable to produce enough insulin necessary during pregnancy.
  • Careful management and treatment is required during pregnancy.
  • Approximately 5% of pregnant women develop diabetes.

Warning signs of diabetes

Here is an infographic about the warning signs of diabetes


Here are some interesting facts about diabetes in Australia

(AIHW Report - Diabetes Facts 2008)

  • More than 1.7 million Australians live with diabetes
  • 280 Australians develop diabetes every day.
  • Diabetes is a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney failure and nerve damage

WA diabetes statistics are available here and you can access world statistics here

Diabetes Research WA is doing everything possible to find solutions,
but we need your help. Find out how you can contribute.


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