Training modules (NHS Scotland)

01: Overview of diabetes (NHS Scotland)

What is diabetes?

Diabetes mellitus, often simply referred to as diabetes, is a common life – long condition where the amount of glucose in somebody’s blood is too high. This is either because their body does not produce enough insulin, or because cells do not respond to the insulin that is produced, known as insulin resistance.

Insulin is the hormone produced by the pancreas that allows glucose to enter the body’s cells, where it is used as fuel for energy so someone can work, play and generally live their lives. It is vital for life. Insulin is the key that unlocks the door to the body’s cells. Once the door is unlocked glucose can enter the cells where it is used as fuel.

Individuals with diabetes cannot make proper use of this glucose so it builds up in the blood and isn’t able to be used as fuel.

Complications may be associated with both low blood sugar and high blood sugar. Low blood sugar may lead to seizures or episodes of unconsciousness ( Hypos) and require emergency treatment. High blood sugar may lead to increased tiredness and can also result in long term damage to organs.

When an individual has high blood glucose it can produce some of the classical symptoms of diabetes:

  • Frequent urination (polyuria)
  • Increased thirst (polydipsia)
  • Dry mouth
  • Loss of weight
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Blurred vision

There are two main types of diabetes, Type 1 and Type 2: