About diabetes


Diabetes mellitus (or diabetes) is one of the most common conditions worldwide. In the Netherlands more than 850,000 people have this metabolic disease. And each year this is increased by another 75,000 people. But what exactly is diabetes?

  • What is diabetes?

    Your doctor has informed you that you have diabetes. Or someone close to you has diabetes.  Diabetes mellitus (or diabetes) is one of the most common conditions worldwide. In the Netherlands more than 850,000 people have diabetes. And each year this is increased by another 75,000 people. But what exactly is diabetes?


    Blood glucose level too high

    Diabetes is a condition whereby your pancreas does not produce enough or any insulin. Insulin ensures that your body can properly process glucose that your body gets from digesting carbohydrates in your food. Glucose is stored in your cells, so that it can be used as energy. If you have diabetes, the glucose is not processed properly and the glucose level in your blood may become too high, which will eventually have consequences for your health.


    Types of diabetes

    Anyone can get diabetes. There are different types of diabetes, with a variety of causes:


    • type 1 diabetes
    • type 2 diabetes
    • gestational diabetes

    Diabetes: complaints and symptoms

    Your blood glucose level is too high. We explain what it means and what type of complaints are caused by this.

    If there is too much glucose in your blood, your body cannot use this glucose as energy. Glucose that is not used ends up in the urine via the kidneys. In order to dilute the large quantity of glucose the kidneys produce more water. This is the reason you have to urinate more often and this causes you to become more thirsty. Your diabetes may go unnoticed for a long time, because the complaints are often of a general nature and are difficult to recognise as symptoms.


    The complaints and symptoms of type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes are very similar. The page Symptoms gives more information about the complaints you may experience with the different types of diabetes.

  • Types of diabetes (type 1 and type 2)

    Anyone can get diabetes. However, there is a greater risk of diabetes when we get older. This type of diabetes is called type 2 diabetes. But there are also types of diabetes that occur at a younger age: the well-known type 1 diabetes and gestational diabetes. 

    There are different types of diabetes. The most common types are type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is a condition whereby your pancreas does not produce enough or any insulin. In this case the blood glucose level is too high. Type 1 diabetes usually occurs before the age of thirty. Approximately ten to fifteen percent of people with diabetes have this type of diabetes.


    Causes of type 1 diabetes

    If there is a family history of type 1 diabetes, you may develop a predisposition to type 1 diabetes. It is also possible that an infection or virus is a direct cause. Your immune system normally protects your body against diseases. Scientists assume that under the influence of, for example, a virus this immune system may have destroyed insulin producing cells during childhood years, possibly causing you to develop type 1 diabetes.

    Contrary to common beliefs, lifestyle has no influence on causing type 1 diabetes.


    Treatment of type 1 diabetes

    Type 1 diabetes affects your daily life considerably. If you have this type of diabetes, it is necessary that you control your blood sugar properly. You check your blood glucose level on a daily basis and you administer insulin to yourself, by means of an insulin pen or insulin pump.

    Even though lifestyle does not influence the cause of type 1 diabetes, pursuing a healthy lifestyle is important. Eating healthy food, eating regularly, exercising and maintaining the correct body weight help to keep the diabetes under control.


    What is type 2 diabetes or adult-onset diabetes?


    There are different types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes are most common. Type 2 diabetes or adult-onset diabetes occurs gradually. Your body does not absorb insulin properly (insulin resistance) or your pancreas does not produce enough insulin. Type 2 diabetes is often only diagnosed when you have complaints or complications. Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes; 85 to 90 percent of people with diabetes have type 2.


    Causes of type 2 diabetes

    Type 2 diabetes can have various causes. It may be caused by a hereditary predisposition, but stress, excessive alcohol use, obesity, unhealthy diet and not taking sufficient exercise may cause this type of diabetes. Your lifestyle and eating habits therefore affect the development of type 2 diabetes. Other causes may be pregnancy, diseases or certain types of medicine. Type 2 diabetes often occurs after the age of 30, but it does occur in children and adolescents. Fifteen percent of people over the age of 70 have an increased risk. This applies to certain ethnic groups, for example, people of Negroid or Latin-American origin in the United States, Surinam Hindus and Cape Verdians.


    Treatment of type 2 diabetes

    Type 2 diabetes can be treated in various ways. What treatment is best for you depends on your insulin deficiency and the functioning of your pancreas. Diet, medication or insulin can help. A healthy lifestyle could mean that you need less medication or insulin. Sometimes insulin is not necessary at all.


    Many people have diabetes without being aware of it. Complaints indicating diabetes are not always easily recognisable as being symptoms of diabetes, nor is everyone affected in the same way. Don't we all feel tired, lethargic or not very fit at some stage?

  • Symptoms of diabetes

    Symptoms indicating diabetes are fairly general. However, please do consult your GP if you experience the following symptoms:

    • You are often thirsty
    • You urinate often
    • You are very tired
    • You have trouble with your eyes

    Complaints of type 1 diabetes

    Someone who has type 1 diabetes  usually feels fairly ill. If people are unaware they have this type of diabetes, they may faint or even end up in a coma. If you suspect that you or your child has type 1 diabetes, then please go and see your GP so that you can get the right treatment as quickly as possible. You can recognise type 1 diabetes from the following symptoms:

    • very thirsty and urinating often
    • weight loss for no obvious reasons
    • very hungry or in fact not hungry at all
    • blurred vision
    • nauseousness and vomiting

    Complaints of type 2 diabetes

    Type 2 diabetes is most common, but hardest to recognise. Because complaints are not very obvious, you may have it for years, without being aware of it. Apart from symptoms such as thirsty, urinating often, tiredness and trouble with your eyes there are a number of other symptoms that are an indication of type 2 diabetes:

    • cuts or wounds that heal slowly
    • shortness of breath
    • pain in your legs when you walk
    • recurring infections, such as bladder infection
  • Hypo/Hyper

    If you have diabetes, you will probably know very well what hypo or hyper means. Sometimes you have too much glucose in your blood. This is called hyperglycaemia or hyper. It may also be the case that your blood sugar is too low. This is called hypoglycaemia or hypo. These variations in your blood glucose are a problem, but fortunately you are able to do something about it.


    Variations in your blood glucose

    In the case of a hyper your blood glucose level is above 10  mmol/l and in the case of a hypo this level is below 4 mmol/l. Variations in your blood sugar may have all kinds of causes. Eating, drinking, exercise, stress or illness: these can all affect the glucose level in your blood. There are various complaints that indicate a hyper or hypo.


    How do you recognise a hyper?

    • urinate often
    • thirsty
    • dry mouth
    • tiredness
    • sudden mood swings
    • moody
    • nauseousness and vomiting


    How do you recognise a hypo?

    • sweating, shaking and dizziness
    • heart palpitations
    • sudden mood swings
    • lack of concentration
    • headache
    • tiredness
    • hungry


    What do you do in case of a hyper or hypo?

    To treat a hyper it is best to drink plenty. Your body can then try to lose the surplus of sugar in the blood via the urine. Please note: do not drink any sugary drinks! By exercising you ensure that your muscles are burning sugar, which could also help. Finally, you can inject extra insulin (preferably in consultation with your diabetes nurse). In the case of a hypo it is best to quickly have something to eat or drink.