Diabetes is a condition where the body is unable to regulate the level of glucose (a sugar) in the blood, resulting in too much glucose being present in the blood.
According to Wikipedia, the word Diabetes was coined by Aretaeus (81-133 CE) of Cappadocia. The word is derived from the Greek diabaínein, which literally means "passing through" or "siphon", a reference to one of the main symptoms of Diabetes - excessive urine discharge.
Glucose is the main sugar that comes from the digestion of the foods that we eat and the liquids that we drink. For example, breads, cereals, dairy foods (such as milk), fruits, and some vegetables that contain carbohydrate in the forms of starches and sugars. When eaten, these are broken down in our digestive tract and absorbed into the blood stream as glucose.
Glucose is the simplest form of sugar and is vital for providing energy for cells to function and grow. Glucose travels via the blood stream to all of the organs and muscles in the body, where it is used as a fuel so that the organs can continue to function properly. The normal / safe level for glucose in the blood is between 3.5 and 7.8 mmol/l (milli-moles per liter).
If an excess of glucose occurs in the blood, then the excess is processed by the liver where it is converted into a form where it can be stored for future use.
The blood glucose level is regulated by insulin, a hormone made in the islet cells in the pancreas. Insulin enables the body's cells to absorb and use glucose. Without sufficient levels of insulin, glucose from the blood in not able to enter the body's cells, and it therefore cannot be used as a fuel to support their continued function.
Diabetes occurs when there is too much glucose in the blood. Or, to be more precise, diabetes occurs when the body is unable to regulate the level of glucose in the blood, resulting in too much glucose being present.
Over time, the high blood glucose levels present, as a result of diabetes, may cause serious complications, such as damage blood vessels and nerve cells, leading to damaged eyes, nerves and kidneys and an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, impotence, and foot problems. Read more in our Diabetes Health Risks section.
The presence of diabetes can be indicated by a range of symptoms (see section on Diabetes Symptoms), however these symptoms may not appear or be noticeable until extremely high levels of glucose are in the blood, such as above 15mmol/l (milli-moles per liter). The normal / safe level for glucose in the blood is between 3.5 and 7.8 mmol/l (milli-moles per liter).
As a result, it is quite common for someone to have diabetes without them even being aware that they have it.
Impaired Glucose Tolerance (IGT), also known as Impaired Fasting Glucose (IFG) and Prediabetes, occurs when the blood glucose level is higher than normal, but not high enough to be classified as Diabetes, and not yet high enough to cause the more serious symptoms and complications of Diabetes. Approximately one-third of people with IGT go on to develop full-blown Diabetes, unless diet and lifestyle changes are made and maintained.
Because of this, the damage and complications caused by diabetes can occur and become quite serious before a person even knows that they have diabetes. It is important for people to know if they have diabetes.
In the "western world", approximately one adult in twelve has diabetes, and the prevalence of diabetes is increasing.
Research has also shown that for every person with diabetes, there is another person who has it but it not yet aware that they have it and they have not yet been diagnosed with it.
This implies that in the "western world", one adult in six has diabetes (diagnosed or un-diagnosed).
Additional information articles on various Diabetes topics can be found at the links below: