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Understanding my diabetes and the role of insulin

When a person is diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, they have too much glucose in their blood. This is because their body is no longer making enough insulin, and/or is unable to use the insulin it makes. In type 2 diabetes, the body’s ability to produce enough insulin reduces over time.

What is insulin?

Insulin is a hormone that the pancreas produces. It plays an essential role in helping to fuel our bodies.

How does insulin work?

When we eat or drink, our body breaks down the carbohydrate and turns it into glucose (a type of sugar). The glucose moves around the body through the bloodstream. Insulin acts like a key that unlocks the doors of the body’s cells. This allows glucose to move out of the blood and into the cells, where it can be used for energy. In someone without diabetes, insulin is released throughout the day and increases after eating or drinking.

Without insulin, glucose cannot be absorbed into the body’s cells, and they remain ‘hungry’. This means there may be too much glucose trapped in the bloodstream, and blood glucose levels will rise. This is known as hyperglycaemia (high blood glucose).

The impact of hyperglycaemia (high blood glucose)

In the short term, when glucose is not being converted to energy a person may feel tired. They may also feel thirsty, due to dehydration caused by excess glucose in the blood.

Over time, high blood glucose can cause serious damage to various parts of the body, including the eyes, the kidneys, the feet and the heart. Unfortunately, most of this damage can happen without any symptoms. This means a person might not feel unwell or notice any changes. The good news is this damage can be prevented or delayed.

This is why it is important to have regular medical check-ups and do your best to manage your diabetes well.

Next: Options for managing my diabetes

Diabetes Australia acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Owners and Custodians of this Country. We recognise their connection to land, waters, winds and culture. We pay the upmost respect to them, their cultures and to their Elders, past and present. We are committed to improving health outcomes for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people affected by diabetes and those at risk.

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