What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs when there is too much glucose in the blood because the body is not producing insulin or not using insulin properly.

There are two main types of diabetes:

  • Type 1 diabetes represents 10 – 15% of all cases of diabetes
  • Type 2 diabetes is more likely in people with a family history of type 2 diabetes or from particular ethnic backgrounds

In addition to type 1 and type 2 diabetes, there are two other types of diabetes:

Pre-diabetes is a condition when blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not yet high enough for a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. Left untreated it may develop into type 2 diabetes within five to ten years.

Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes that occurs in pregnancy and mostly disappears after the birth.

A person is diagnosed with diabetes every 5 minutes

Do I have type 1 diabetes?

Type 1

  • Occurs when the pancreas no longer produces the insulin needed
  • Represents 10% – 15% of all cases of diabetes
  • Is one of the most common chronic childhood diseases in developed nations
  • Is not caused by lifestyle factors
  • Is increasing at about 3% a year
  • Requires insulin therapy

Type 2

  • Occurs when the pancreas is not producing enough insulin or the insulin is not working effectively
  • Represents 85 – 90% of all cases of diabetes
  • Risk factors include family history, ethnic background and being overweight – particularly around the waist
  • Lifestyle factors such as unhealthy eating and lack of physical activity can contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes
  • Managed with lifestyle adjustments and may require diabetes medication or insulin therapy


  • Usually in childhood or young adulthood, although it can occur at any age.


  • Usually in adults over the age of 45 but it is increasingly occurring at a younger age.


  • Usually abrupt onset. Symptoms can include excessive thirst and urination, unexplained weight loss, weakness and fatigue, irritability.


  • Sometimes symptoms go unnoticed as the disease develops gradually. Symptoms may include any of those for type 1 diabetes plus blurred vision, skin infections, slow healing, tingling and numbness in the feet. Sometimes no symptoms are noticed at all.


  • Lifelong daily insulin injections or use of an insulin pump, regular blood glucose level tests, healthy eating and regular physical activity.


  • Regular physical activity and healthy eating. Over time treatment may progress from lifestyle modification to requiring blood glucose-lowering tablets and/or insulin injections.
Diabetes NSW & ACT - Live your life