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What is Diabetes
Community Health Tips

Diabetes means your blood glucose (often called blood sugar) is too high. Your blood always has some glucose in it because your body needs glucose for energy to keep you going. But too much glucose in the blood isn't good for your health.

Description: Anatomical illustration of the pancreas' location in the abdomen. - Click to enlarge in new window.

Glucose comes from the food you eat and is also made in your liver and muscles. Your blood carries the glucose to all of the cells in your body. Insulin is a chemical (a hormone) made by the pancreas. The pancreas releases insulin into the blood. Insulin helps the glucose from food get into your cells.

If your body does not make enough insulin or if the insulin doesn't work the way it should, glucose can't get into your cells. It stays in your blood instead. Your blood glucose level then gets too high, causing pre-diabetes or diabetes.

Signs of Diabetes

Many people with diabetes experience one or more symptoms, including extreme thirst or hunger, a frequent need to urinate and/or fatigue. Some lose weight without trying. Additional signs include sores that heal slowly, dry, itchy skin, loss of feeling or tingling in the feet and blurry eyesight. Some people with diabetes, however, have no symptoms at all.

If Diabetes is Not Managed

Diabetes is a very serious disease. Over time, diabetes that is not well managed causes serious damage to the eyes, kidneys, nerves, heart, gums and teeth. If you have diabetes, you are more likely than people without diabetes to have heart disease or a stroke. People with diabetes also tend to develop heart disease or stroke at an earlier age than others.

The best way to protect yourself from the serious complications of diabetes is to manage your blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol and to avoid smoking. It is not always easy, but people who make an ongoing effort to manage their diabetes can greatly improve their overall health.

Blood Glucose Measurement

Understanding blood glucose level ranges is key to both diabetes diagnosis and diabetes self-management

The following ranges are guidelines provided by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) but each individual’s target range should be agreed by their doctor or diabetic consultant.

NICE recommended target blood glucose level ranges

Target Levels by Type

Before meals  (pre prandial)

2 hours after meals (post prandial)


4.0 to 5.9 mmol/L

under 7.8 mmol/L

Type 2 diabetes

4 to 7 mmol/L

under 8.5 mmol/L

Type 1 diabetes

4 to 7 mmol/L

under 9 mmol/L

Children w/ type 1 diabetes

4 to 8 mmol/L

under 10 mmol/L

NB: There are differing opinions about the ideal blood glucose level range.

You should discuss your own individual needs with your healthcare team.


Insulin And Diabetes

There are different types of insulin depending on how quickly they work, when they peak, and how long they last.

Inside the pancreas, beta cells make the hormone insulin. With each meal, beta cells release insulin to help the body use or store the blood glucose it gets from food.

In people with type 1 diabetes, the pancreas no longer makes insulin. The beta cells have been destroyed and they need insulin shots to use glucose from meals.

People with type 2 diabetes make insulin, but their bodies don't respond well to it. Some people with type 2 diabetes need diabetes pills or insulin shots to help their bodies use glucose for energy.

Insulin cannot be taken as a pill because it would be broken down during digestion just like the protein in food. It must be injected into the fat under your skin for it to get into your blood. In some rare cases insulin can lead to an allergic reaction at the injection site. Talk to your doctor if you believe you may be experiencing a reaction


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