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Diabetes is a lifelong (chronic) condition caused by a lack, or insufficiency of insulin. Insulin is a hormone – a substance of vital importance that is made by your pancreas. Insulin acts like a key to open the doors into your cells, letting sugar (glucose) in.


With diabetes, the pancreas makes too little insulin to enable all the sugar in your blood to get into your muscle and other cells to produce energy. If sugar can’t get into the cells to be used, it builds up in the bloodstream. Therefore, diabetes is characterised by high blood sugar (glucose) levels.

Types of Diabetes
  • Type 1 diabetes tends to occur in childhood or early adult life, and always requires treatment with insulin injections. It is caused by the body’s own immune system destroying the insulin-making cells (beta-cells) of the pancreas.

  • Type 2 diabetes usually develops slowly in adulthood. It is progressive and can sometimes be treated with diet and exercise, but more often Type 2 diabetes may require anti-diabetic medicine and/or insulin injections.


More than three-quarters of people with diabetes have type 2 diabetes.The number of people with type 2 diabetes is rapidly increasing as it is commoner in the overweight and obese, which is itself a growing problem. The remainder have type 1 diabetes.

*Type 2 diabetes is included in the Chronic Disease Management programme. Type 1 is not included as it is generally managed by hospital units.


Pre-diabetes is a condition where the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood is higher than normal, but is not high enough for you to have a diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes. Pre-diabetes is the stage before a diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes.

  • Pre-diabetes is very treatable, but should be taken seriously. People with pre-diabetes have a high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

  • If pre-diabetes is taken seriously, Type 2 diabetes can often be prevented or delayed. Being active, losing weight if you're overweight and eating healthy food can all make a huge difference.

See our Healthier Living page for advice on how to improve your health, manage your weight, quit smoking or reduce your alcohol intake. 

Risks Factors for Type 2 diabetes

You're more at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes if you:

  • are over 45

  • have a close relative with diabetes such as a parent, brother or sister

  • are an adult who is overweight or obese

  • have a diagnosis of pre-diabetes

  • had gestational diabetes during pregnancy

  • are physically inactive - for example, if you take less than 30 minutes of physical activity most days

  • have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol or high triglycerides

  • have a history of heart disease

  • have a medical condition that requires long-term steroid use

  • are a member of the travelling community

  • are of south Asian, Chinese, Hispanic, African Caribbean or black African origin

  • have haemochromatosis - storing too much iron in your body

  • are a woman with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

Useful Links & Resources

  • HSE Diabetes

  • - What is Diabetes? Useful videos explaining the differences between Type 1 & 2 Diabetes.

  • - Type 2 Risk Test

  • See our Healthier Living page for advice on how to improve your health, manage your weight, quit smoking or reduce your alcohol intake. 

This content of this page (and links to other sites) is for general information purposes only and does not substitute medical advice. While we endeavour to keep this website up-to-date, errors may occur. We advise all patients to discuss their health concerns with their GP. If you would like to suggest amendments or highlight new information that could be useful to others please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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