What is Diabetes?

what is diabetes

What is diabetes and what are the symptoms?

Diabetes mellitus is a metabolic disease where the body doesn’t produce or properly use insulin.

How many types of diabetes mellitus are there?

There are two types of diabetes;

  • Type 1 which is when the part of the body which produces insulin, called the pancreas, doesn’t produce enough insulin.
  • Type 2 which is when the cells in your body become “insulin resistant” and stop responding to insulin.

This causes difficulty in controlling the levels of sugars in your blood.

There is also a third type of diabetes known as gestational diabetes. This is when blood sugar levels are high during pregnancy. It is important to keep these levels controlled to prevent complications.

The symptoms usually disappear after the birth but woman who have gestational diabetes have a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

Type 1 diabetes is sometimes called juvenile diabetes but it is common for adults to be diagnosed with it, even some people in their 60s! In fact, half of all people who are diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes are adults.

frio insulin travel cooler wallet
A FRIO wallet keeps in use insulin at the correct temperature

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, it is not caused by eating too many sweet things. As Type 1 diabetics don’t produce their own insulin, they must take injections of insulin multiple times a day.

This can be difficult if you are travelling in a hot climate as insulin must be kept between 18 and 26˚C. FRIO insulin cooler wallets are available from our shop here. These keep insulin at the recommended temperature for a minimum of 45 hours even in external temperatures of up to 37.5˚C.

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. It occurs when the cells in the body become less sensitive to insulin. At first your body tries to compensate by producing more insulin but eventually it cannot produce enough to keep your blood sugar levels steady. Because the cells are not responding to the insulin, they cannot access the glucose in your bloodstream.

Type 2 diabetes can sometimes be managed without medications by exercise, controlling your diet and weight loss (if you are overweight). In other cases, medications are needed to effectively manage the diabetes. Type 2 diabetes can be preventable as it is linked to obesity and a sedentary lifestyle. There is also an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes if you have family members who have been diagnosed.

Hypoglycaemia and Hyperglycaemia

Hyperglycaemia – What are the symptoms of high blood sugar in diabetics

Without insulin, your blood sugar levels rise to high levels, this is called hyperglycaemia. Hyperglycaemia causes your body to try to get rid of the sugar through urination, which in turn makes you feel very thirsty to make up for the fluids you’re losing. Since insulin is needed to break down the sugar into usable energy, your body may begin to break down muscle and body fats in order to provide energy. If your body isn’t receiving enough energy, you will begin to feel tired.

High blood sugar levels can be caused by not taking your medications, not exercising enough or eating too much. Keeping your blood sugar levels in a normal, healthy range is very important. That’s why it’s important to take your medication as it’s prescribed by your doctor, exercise regularly, and follow meal plans and try not to overdo it on special occasions! If you rarely get high blood sugar levels then there’s no need to worry but if you regularly have them then it’s time to talk to your doctor.

Early symptoms of hyperglycaemia include:

  • Increased thirst;
  • Frequent urination;
  • Headaches;
  • Trouble concentrating;
  • Blurred vision;
  • Tiredness;
  • Weight loss.

If your high blood sugar continues to stay high you can experience these symptoms:

  • Skin infections;
  • Vision deterioration;
  • Slow healing of wounds;
  • and more.


Low blood sugar can be caused by the medication used to treat diabetes. These medications, like insulin, work by breaking down the sugars into energy. This causes your blood sugar levels to go down. This can be a tricky balancing act as exercising can also reduce your blood sugar levels and if you haven’t eaten that much then your levels may already be low. Sometimes this can mean that the levels go down too low which is called hypoglycaemia. If you are hypoglycaemic you can:

  • feel hungry and shaky;
  • your heart rate can increase;
  • feel sweaty and clammy;
  • become pale or even grey-toned;
  • have a headache and blurred vision;
  • be bad tempered;
  • feel weak and tired;
  • feel like you are walking unsteadily;
  • feel confused.

Hypoglycaemia can also cause seizures and unconsciousness. This is why it’s important to recognise the early symptoms to prevent more serious symptoms from occurring. It’s also very important to check your blood sugar levels regularly. If your blood sugar levels do drop too low then it is important to eat or drink something sugary like glucose sweets, fizzy drinks or juice. An injection of glucagon may be necessary in cases where the person with hypoglycaemia has passed out.

Medical Alert

In emergencies where the diabetic person is confused or even unconscious, it can be very difficult for bystanders and medical personnel to know what is going on. This is why it is recommended for diabetics to always wear medical alert bracelets or necklaces visibly. These make sure that the problem is immediately recognised and can be treated straight away.

Diabetes Alert Write On Wristband
Diabetes Alert Wristband

These should have diabetes written in big lettering and can also have further details printed on such as an emergency contact number, your doctor’s name and phone number, can tell the reader where to find more information such as an emergency medical information card in your wallet or purse or where to find your insulin injection.

Stylish Sports Engraved Medical Alert Bracelets
Alert Wear ensures others know about your diabetes in case of an emergency

The more obvious the ID, the more likely it is that it will be recognised as an ID. There are a range of products available in our shop that will suit everyone, they can be found here and here.

Monitoring and controlling your diabetes is essential. The target range for your blood sugar is usually 4-7mmol/L or up to 8mmol/L after a meal, your health care worker can tell you your exact range. It can be very difficult to keep it within this ranges and it is common for people who are trying very hard to keep the levels normal to experience hypoglycaemia more often than people who are not as strict.

Hyperglycaemia is also dangerous. High levels over long periods of time can damage blood vessels. This causes increased risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, nerve damage and eye damage. These problems usually show up after a number of years of badly managed diabetes. An episode of hyperglycaemia or hypoglycaemia every now and then is no cause for panic, every diabetic has them!

Disclaimer: The information provided is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Allergy Lifestyle Limited (t/a) Allergy Lifestyle) uses reasonable endeavours to check the accuracy of information provided however no warranty is given that they are error-free.

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