What is Diabetes?

Important Information

  • Diabetes happens when the body cannot use sugar normally.
  • Insulin is needed to move sugar from the bloodstream to our body cells.
  • Diabetes happens when the body does not make ANY insulin or when it does not make ENOUGH insulin.
  • Type 1 diabetes happens when the insulin making cells in the pancreas are destroyed and the body makes NO insulin.
  • Type 2 diabetes happens when the body cannot make ENOUGH insulin to keep the blood sugar levels normal.

General Information

Diabetes is a condition where the body cannot use sugar normally. Sugar, also called glucose, is the body’s main source of energy. Sugar comes from the food we eat and it comes from the body itself – a steady supply of sugar is made in the liver to be used between meals. Sugar can be used right away or it can be stored in the liver and muscle cells or changed into fat. Without a regular supply of glucose, the body cannot function properly. 

Sugar is carried in the blood stream to all of the body’s cells. However, sugar cannot get out of the blood stream and into the body cells without insulin, a hormone that is made in the Beta cells of the pancreas. One of the important actions of insulin involves keeping glucose levels in the blood from going up too high after a meal by allowing glucose to enter into the body’s cells. Diabetes happens when either the body cannot make any insulin or it does not make enough insulin. When there is not enough insulin around, the body “thinks” it needs more glucose, so it starts to break down its own stores of proteins and fats to make new sugar. As more and more fat is broken down to provide energy to the body, leftovers called ketones begin to build up. Ketones can build to such high levels that they actually make the blood too acidic- a condition called Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA). DKA makes people very sick; often they need treatment in the intensive care unit to get better. However, by restoring insulin, the body can reverse the process, get sugar back in to the cells, and prevent the body from breaking down.