About Diabetes

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes mellitus is a chronic disease marked by high levels of sugar in the blood. This occurs either when the body does not produce enough of a hormone known as insulin, or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces. Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar.

Diabetes requires daily self-care and if poorly managed or left undiagnosed, can lead to serious complications and reduced life expectancy. Ranked as the world’s seventh leading cause of death (1), Diabetes affects over 400 million people worldwide, 26.8 Million people in the US and 1.2 million people in Australia.

What Is Type 1 Diabetes?

Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) is a lifelong, autoimmune disease, resulting in the destruction of the insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells by the body’s own immune system, so T1D patients are unable to make the insulin needed to keep blood glucose levels in the normal range. The exact cause of T1D is unknown but it is believed to be the result of an interaction of genetic and environmental factors. Between 5% and 10% of all diabetes is Type 1 and incidence rates all over the world are increasing. It is often diagnosed in childhood or adolescence, but over 40% of new diagnoses in Australia occur in adults.

T1D patients must take daily insulin via injection or pump to survive and face a lifetime of difficult disease management such as checking blood sugar regularly and following a strict diet. Dangerously high, or low, blood glucose levels can be life threatening for patients and over time abnormal fluctuations in blood sugar can lead to serious complications including kidney failure, blindness and nerve damage. T1D puts a tremendous financial and mental burden on patients, families, and society (1).

Other forms of diabetes

Type 2 diabetes (T2D) is more common than T1D and generally has a later onset. People with T2D produce insulin, but do not produce enough, or cannot use it effectively. It involves a genetic component, but is largely preventable and is often, but not always, associated with lifestyle factors including physical inactivity, poor diet, being overweight or obese, and tobacco smoking.

Other forms of diabetes also occur which are just as devastating as T1D and T2D. These include gestational diabetes, various types of monogenic diabetes, cystic fibrosis-related diabetes, and diabetes caused by rare syndromes. Certain medications as well as surgery or hormonal imbalances can also lead to other types of diabetes (4).
All people diagnosed with T1D and some diagnosed with T2D and other forms of diabetes must take insulin replacement therapy.