On Guard Against Diabetes

Information on Diabetes for Persons With Disabilities

What is Diabetes?

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada (2007) “Diabetes is a chronic condition that stems from the body’s inability to sufficiently produce and/or properly use insulin”.

Diabetes is a condition in which the body cannot produce an important hormone called insulin. Insulin is produced in the pancreas. People with diabetes do not make enough insulin in their bodies or they have trouble using the insulin that their bodies produce. When your body lacks insulin or you cannot properly use the insulin your body does produce, you can develop many serious health conditions.

There are three types of diabetes: type 1, type 2 and gestational (during pregnancy). Some people develop a condition called prediabetes before they develop type 2. Most people who have diabetes have type 2 (about 90%). There is no known cure for diabetes, although researchers are looking for one.

  • Type 1 diabetes (formerly called juvenile-onset diabetes) has no known cure, and its cause is not yet known. Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed before the age of 30, although some people have been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes much later in life. Type 1 diabetes is not caused by eating too much sugar. Without insulin injections, people with type 1 diabetes die. With good management of this disease, people with type 1 diabetes may prevent or delay the onset of other serious conditions like heart attacks, kidney disease, blindness and amputation, and premature death. Type 1 diabetes also attacks the immune system, making people vulnerable to infections.

  • Type 2 diabetes (once called adult diabetes but now found more and more often in children and teenagers) does not yet have a cure, but its causes are known and in almost 50% of cases it may be prevented or delayed. The single biggest risk for type 2 diabetes is having a parent, brother or sister with the disease. If your family comes from Asia, Latin America, South-East Asia or Africa, you also have a very high risk of getting type 2 diabetes. Being overweight, physically inactive, over 40 years old or being a smoker also puts you at high risk of getting type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is just as serious as type 1, and can lead to serious health problems. There is good news, though! Type 2 diabetes may be prevented or delayed by eating a healthy diet and being physically active in daily life.

  • Gestational diabetes is a temporary condition that affects about 4% of women during pregnancy and it usually goes away after the pregnancy is over. However, both mothers and babies in these cases carry a high risk of getting type 2 diabetes as they get older. Up to 40% of women who have gestational diabetes will get type 2 later in life.

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