Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin, a hormone that is required to regulate blood sugar, needed for daily life.
Glucose, a simple form of sugar, enters the blood from the intestines, where is absorbed from food and sugary drink as a natural part of digestion. It is also produced by the liver, which acts as a store of energy.
One of the many functions of the blood is to carry glucose around the body. When it reaches the various body tissues, such as the muscle cells, it is converted into energy. The precise concentration of glucose in the blood is automatically regulated. Crucial to this is the hormone insulin, which is secreted into the blood by the pancreas – a gland found behind and below the stomach.
Insulin is required for the conversion of glucose into energy. With the digestive system and liver working normally, a shortage of insulin causes glucose to build up in the blood, leading to the symptoms of diabetes. Poorly controlled blood sugar can also be a major threat to health, including increased risk of heart disease and strokes, nerve damage and blindness.