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What is diabetes?
  • Diabetes is a lifelong condition that causes a person’s blood sugar levels to become too high
  • Insulin (hormone produced by the pancreas) is responsible for controlling the amount of glucose in the blood
  • In teenagers it is most common to have type 1 diabetes – symptoms develop very quickly in young people whereas in adults it takes longer to develop

There are 2 main types of diabetes:

  • Type 1: pancreas doesn’t produce ANY insulin
  • Type 2: pancreas doesn’t produce ENOUGH insulin or the cells don’t react to the insulin


  • Feeling thirsty all the time
  • Feeling very tired
  • Passing urine more often than normal
  • Weight loss or loss of muscle bulk

Causes of type 1 diabetes

  • Caused by the pancreas stopping making insulin
  • It’s an autoimmune condition so the immune system attacks healthy body tissues and cells in the pancreas by mistake
  • Often inherited so can be genetic – 6% chance of developing type 1 diabetes if a close relative has the condition
  • Thought to be caused by viral infection in some cases

Living with type 1 diabetes

  • You will be referred to a specialist diabetes team for treatment and monitoring
  • Treatment involves:
    • Daily insulin injections
    • Keeping blood glucose levels as normal as possible
    • Control of the symptoms and looking after your health by having:
      • Healthy diet
      • Regular physical activity
      • No smoking and moderate drinking
      • Losing weight if overweight

Causes of type 2 diabetes 

  • It occurs when the body doesn’t produce enough insulin to function properly, or the body’s cells don’t react to insulin. This means glucose stays in the blood and isn’t used as fuel for energy
  • It’s often associated with obesity and tends to be diagnosed in older people. It’s far more common than type 1 diabetes

Living with type 2 diabetes

As type 2 diabetes usually gets worse, you may eventually need medication – usually tablets – to keep your blood glucose at normal levels.

If you already have type 2 diabetes, it may be possible to control your symptoms by making lifestyle changes. This also minimises your risk of developing complications.

Sources: Diabetes UK ; NHS website

A life story

Chandler has type 1 diabetes. Find out how the condition has affected her life and the lives of those around her.