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Understanding diabetes

In 2020, an additional 10,695 people were diagnosed with diabetes. More than 209,015 people in Wales are now living with diabetes. This is eight per cent of the population aged 17 and over - the highest prevalence in the UK - and the numbers are rising every year. 

Diabetes affects a wide cross section of society from babies to pregnant women to the elderly and may affect so many different body systems that it touches most areas of health and social care.

Preventing diabetes by reducing modifiable risk factors is a key goal for health and social care providers. Such interventions have the additional benefit of reducing the risk of various other chronic conditions such as cardiovascular and respiratory disease.

Diabetes prevalence is higher in areas of greatest deprivation, and amongst minority ethnic communities. Services should be designed to reduce this health inequality. Effective self-management of diabetes is crucial and information, structured education and empowerment are essential to enable this. 

Read the Welsh Government's National Diabetes Delivery Plan.

Diabetes is a lifelong condition that causes a person’s blood glucose (sugar) level to become too high.

There are two main types of diabetes:

  • Type 1
  • Type 2

Diabetes is caused when your body is unable to break down glucose into energy. This is either because there’s not enough insulin to move the glucose or the insulin produced does not work properly.

Find out about diabetes in Wales

Type 1 diabetes is a condition where your blood glucose level is too high because your body cannot produce enough, or any insulin.

This happens because your body attacks and destroys the cells in your pancreas that make the insulin.  

Find out about Type 1 diabetes in Wales. 

Type 2 diabetes occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or the insulin you produce cannot work properly. This causes blood glucose levels to increase to a level that can lead to long term health problems.

Self-management is an essential part of type 2 diabetes care. Through lifestyle changes the onset of type 2 diabetes can be delayed and even prevented.

Watch this short film to learn more about ‘what is type 2 diabetes’

Find out about Type 2 diabetes in Wales.

Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes share some similarities, but there are some key differences: 

  • Type 1 diabetes means that your body attacks your pancreas and it therefore cannot make insulin; Type 2 diabetes means either your body doesn’t create enough insulin or the insulin produced doesn’t work properly
  • The symptoms for Type 1 diabetes appear quickly while Type 2 diabetes develops more slowly
  • There are more ways to manage Type 2 diabetes than Type 1 diabetes
  • Although Type 2 cannot be cured, there’s evidence that it is possible to put it in remission; there is no evidence that this can be done for Type 1 diabetes.

Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that can develop during pregnancy.

It affects woman who haven’t been affected by diabetes before.

It is usually diagnosed between 24-28 weeks. Women often stop experiencing gestational diabetes once their child is born. 

Find out more about gestational diabetes in Wales.

Pocket Medic videos about gestational diabetes.

There are multiple different types of diabetes:

  • Maturity onset diabetes of the young (MODY)
  • Neonatal diabetes
  • Wolfram Syndrome
  • AlstrÓ§m Syndrome
  • Latent Autoimmune diabetes in Adults (LADA)
  • Type 3c diabetes
  • Steroid-induced diabetes
  • Cystic fibrosis diabetes.

Find out more about these types of diabetes on the Diabetes UK website.