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Definition

Diabetes - a matter of balance

Diabetes occurs when the body’s regulation of the levels of sugar in the blood is disrupted.

We all take in sugar, or glucose, from food and drink that contains carbohydrate. The body breaks down food and drink into glucose and the blood carries it to cells throughout the body. Insulin - a hormone produced by the pancreas – then helps the glucose to enter the cells where it is converted into fuel for our body.

In Type 1 diabetes mellitus the body is unable to produce any insulin because the immune system has mistakenly destroyed the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas. This form of diabetes often starts in childhood or young adulthood. It is also known as insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus and accounts for between five and 15 per cent of people with diabetes.

In Type 2 diabetes, not enough insulin is produced or the insulin that is made by the body does not work properly. This is known as insulin resistance. Type 2 diabetes tends to affect people as they get older and is the most common form of diabetes.

The result of both types of diabetes is that there is too much glucose in the blood whilst the cells are starved of energy.

If diabetes is not managed, high blood glucose, also called hyperglycaemia, eventually damages nerves and blood vessels. Diabetes is often associated with complications including heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, nerve problems, blindness, gum infections, amputation and even death.

At Roche, our research in diabetes is continuing to develop our understanding of the disease and drive development of new diagnostic solutions and medicines.