What is Diabetes?

There are 3 main types of diabetes:

  • type 1
  • type 2 and
  • gestational diabetes.

All are complex conditions that affect many systems within the body.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that typically first occurs in childhood or adolescence. It develops when the immune system damages insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. People diagnosed with type 1 diabetes need to replace the insulin that cannot be produced in their own body. They must check their blood glucose levels several times a day and inject insulin to provide for their body’s changing glucose needs.

If blood glucose levels drop below the normal level (4 mmol/l) Hypoglycaemia (a ‘hypo’) will occur. It can be caused by too much insulin; delaying a meal; not enough food or unplanned or unusual exercise. A severe hypo can progress to becoming severe if not treated promptly and can potentially cause irrational or confused behaviour, a seizure and possible loss of consciousness.

Hyperglycaemia (a ‘hyper’) occurs when blood glucose levels increase above the normal level. Hypoglycaemia can be caused by not enough insulin; too much food; common illness; or stress. High blood glucose levels affect learning and mood.

An increasing number of students in Victorian schools need help to manage this condition, which impacts many aspects of their daily life.

At present, type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented or cured. However, researchers are looking at environmental factors and the immune process as they work towards preventing type 1 diabetes in the future.

For further information about diabetes, visit Diabetes AustraliaExternal Link or Diabetes VictoriaExternal Link

Guidance chapter in the Diabetes Guidelines containing general information about diabetes

Reviewed 28 May 2020

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