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Home >> Diabetes >> The Role of Insulin

The Role of Insulin

We all rely on insulin, a hormone made in the pancreas, to move glucose from the blood into the body's cells. People with diabetes have partial or complete lack of insulin production in the body.

When we eat, our digestion of food breaks down carbohydrates into glucose that is absorbed into the blood in the small intestine. Everyone has glucose from food in his or her blood stream.

We all rely on insulin, a hormone made in the pancreas, to move glucose from the blood into the body's cells.

The role of Insulin

If the insulin is working properly, then the glucose levels rise and fall normally, as insulin moves glucose into the cells to produce energy.

The role of Insulin and Glucose

Insulin is the key that opens up the cell to allow glucose to enter.

People with diabetes have partial or complete lack of insulin production in the body.

The key to open the cell is not working and so instead, glucose levels pile up in the bloodstream.

Type 1 diabetes

People with type 1 diabetes do not produce insulin. The body stops making insulin because the cells in the pancreas have been destroyed.

Exactly why this happens is not known, but it has been suggested that the body's natural defenses, the immune system, destroy the insulin-producing tissue as if it were a foreign body.

Unknown environmental factors probably trigger the process in those people who are genetically predisposed.

Approximately 10% of people with diabetes have type 1. People with type 1 diabetes must inject insulin daily and balance their food intake and physical activity levels with insulin.

Type 1 diabetes occurs suddenly, with symptoms like nausea, vomiting and stomach pains. It generally first appears in people under twenty years old.

Type 2 diabetes

People with type 2 diabetes produce insufficient insulin, or the insulin that they produce does not work properly and cannot move glucose into the body's cells.

When the insulin is not working as effectively as normal, it is also called "reduced insulin sensitivity" or "insulin resistance".

This causes glucose to accumulate in the blood and can cause hyperglycaemia (high blood sugar levels).

Type 2 diabetes is the most prevalent form of diabetes with approximately 90% of all diabetes cases being type 2.

People who are overweight, over the age of 45, and those of Native/Indigenous, African or Hispanic descent are most prone to type 2 diabetes.

Last Updated 24-03-2009