Diabetes is the common term for several metabolic disorders in which the body no longer produces insulin or uses the insulin it produces ineffectively.

It is a common condition and is characterised by abnormally high blood sugar levels.

Diabetes is known as "diabetes mellitus" - where diabetes comes from the Greek word for siphon, which describes the excessive thirst and urination of this condition, and mellitus is the Latin word for honey, because diabetic urine is filled with sugar and is sweet.

Diabetes essentially changes the way your body uses food

The key to the problem is insulin - as insulin's role in the body is to help glucose get into the body cells where it is used to make energy.

Diabetes is characterized by a partial or complete lack of insulin production by the body. The most common forms of diabetes are type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes. In both types of diabetes, people have little or no ability to move sugar out of the blood stream and into the cells, where it is used as the body's primary fuel.

Symptoms and complications

Symptoms of diabetes include:

  • Frequent urination
  • Extreme thirst and/or hunger
  • Weight change (gain or loss)
  • Fatigue
  • Numbness
  • Sores that are slow to heal, and
  • Increased infections

Learning how to best manage your diabetes is key to your treatment. Poor control of diabetes can lead to an increased risk of:

  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Kidney failure
  • Blindness
  • Foot and leg infections
How common is diabetes?

According to the International Diabetes Federation, 382 million people around the world have diabetes, as of 2013.

Of these, 90% have type 2 diabetes, and 10% have type 1 diabetes.