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What happens when you have diabetes?


Diabetes is a condition where the amount of glucose in your blood is too high because the body cannot use it properly.

This is because the pancreas doesn’t produce any insulin, or not enough insulin, to help glucose enter your body’s cells – or the insulin that is produced does not work properly.

Insulin is the hormone produced by the pancreas that allows glucose to enter the body’s cells, where it is used as fuel for energy so we can work, play and generally live our lives. It is vital for life.

Glucose comes from digesting carbohydrate and is also produced by the liver.

For a person that has diabetes their body cannot make proper use of this glucose so it builds up in the blood and can’t be used as fuel.

There are two main types of diabetes: Type 1 diabetes and Type 2 diabetes.

  • → There is no insulin to unlock the cells (Type 1)
  • → There is not enough insulin or the insulin is there but not working properly (Type 2).


Diabetic emergency Hypoglycaemia (hypo)

Hypoglycaemia means ‘low blood glucose levels’. When blood sugar is low a diabetic hasn’t got enough energy for normal body activities.



Hypos can come on quickly and everyone has different symptoms, but common ones are: feeling shaky, sweating, hunger, tiredness, blurred vision, lack of concentration, headaches, feeling tearful, stroppy or moody, going pale. Often the person appears drunk and confused.

Why do hypos happen?

There’s no rule as to why they happen, but some things make it more likely: excess insulin, delayed or missed meal or snack, not enough carbs, unplanned physical activity, and drinking large quantities of alcohol or alcohol without food.

Treating a hypo

If the person is conscious, and can swallow treat the hypo immediately with fast-acting carbohydrate:

  • → Small glass of sugary (non-diet) drink
  • → At least three glucose tablets
  • → Five sweets, such as jelly babies
  • → Small carton of pure fruit juice
  • → Glucose gel.

If a person suffering from a hypo and becomes unconscious you will need to help by:

  • → Putting them into the recovery position
  • → Call an ambulance

The information for this blog was taken in part from the Diabetes UK website. Please visit the site as it is informative and useful to those suffering with diabetes, their families and first aiders who want to learn more about the subject,



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