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What is diabetes?


Diabetes means “flowing through”, and mellitus means “sweet as honey”. So Diabetes Mellitus, the full name, means that there is too much sugar flowing through the blood. Sugar gets into our blood when our digestive juices break down foods after we eat. It doesn’t only come from eating sweets! Another name for sugar is glucose.

We do not understand why some people develop diabetes. It is likely to be a mixture of inherited genes and a reaction to a viral illness months before you developed symptoms.

You cannot catch diabetes from anyone else, and it does not happen because you have done anything bad. It is a lifelong condition, and you will become an expert in understanding how it affects you.

Normally, our body stops the level of sugar getting too high by producing a controlling hormone called insulin. If there is not enough insulin, the sugar level can get as high as it likes, and spills out in the urine. This is called glycosuria. When this happens, you pass more urine and feel thirsty.

Diabetes happens when there isn’t enough insulin, or if the insulin doesn’t work properly. Without insulin, sugar rises.

Sugar is what we usually use for energy. We need insulin to let the sugar into our cells. Without insulin, all the energy is wasted and we feel tired and get very ill. Without sugar as energy, our bodies use the fat stores we all have. The problem with this is that it produces a waste product called ketones. Ketones are acidic like vinegar, and can make us feel awful. Ketones can sometimes be smelt on our breath as a sweet odour, like pear drops.

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This is what happens to the food you eat
This is what happens to the food you eat