novo nordisk®



Understanding diabetes

What is diabetes, and why does it happen?

Diabetes is a condition where your body doesn’t make enough insulin, makes no insulin at all, or doesn’t respond to insulin properly. To better understand your diabetes, you need to know what insulin is and why your body needs it. 

  • Insulin is a hormone produced by your body that helps move glucose (sugar) from your blood into your cells for energy 
  • You need energy for almost every job your body does 

How eating is related to diabetes

Your cells need sugar for energy. When you eat, some of your food is broken down into glucose (sugar) and enters your bloodstream. Sugar travels in your blood to all of your body’s cells. Insulin is a hormone made by the beta cells in your pancreas. Insulin works like a key to help unlock the cells in your body and lets the sugar in to give you energy. When the sugar moves from the blood into your cells, the amount of sugar in your body goes down. 

What’s the difference between type 1 diabetes and type 2?

Understanding diabetes further means knowing the different types of diabetes and their key differences. The two most common types are type 1 and type 2. 

Type 1 diabetes:

  • The body makes very little or no insulin
  • Can happen at any age, but is usually diagnosed in children or teenagers 

Type 2 diabetes:

  • The body doesn’t make enough insulin, it doesn’t respond to insulin properly (insulin resistance), or both
  • The most common type in adults, usually over 40 years of age, but recently has been developing in more children and young adults
  • The combination of insulin resistance and low amounts of insulin means that insulin can’t do its job of moving sugar from the blood into the cells, which causes high blood sugar 

Diabetes during pregnancy (gestational diabetes):

  • Some people may develop diabetes during pregnancy, which is called gestational diabetes
  • Being diagnosed with gestational diabetes means they did not have diabetes before and may continue to develop high blood sugar throughout their pregnancy
  • However, people with gestational diabetes are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes
  • People with gestational diabetes should follow their health care provider’s advice closely during pregnancy

Diabetes is a condition that changes over time, so it’s a good idea to stay on top of it. No matter what type of diabetes you may have, putting together a diabetes care team can be helpful. Click here to learn more.

You may also like:

How type 2 diabetes can change over time

This video outlines the progressive nature of diabetes and reassures patients that change is a normal part of the diabetes journey.

The diabetes puzzle

Have a closer look at how different parts of your body can contribute to the progress of type 2 diabetes.


You are now leaving the NovoCare® Education and Resources for Diabetes website

Clicking “Continue” below will take you to a website to which our Privacy Policy does not apply. Links are provided as a public service and for informational purposes only. No endorsement is made or implied.