What is Diabetes?

Units of measure.

In the UK and Europe we measure blood sugar in millimoles per litre (mmol/l) you may come across the US version which is measured in milligrams per decilitre (mg/dl). To convert multiple the UK mmol/l figure by 18 or use the pop-up converter below.

UK to US & US to UK
Blood Sugar Pop-up Converter

So What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a condition where sugar (glucose) in the blood is not processed normally by the body. Damage to many of the bodies systems can begin to occur when sugar levels in the blood are excessively high for prolonged periods. The higher these blood sugar levels are and the more often they occur the greater is the risk of damage.

In the blood sugar graph the lower (pink) line shows how blood sugar normally keeps to a quite limited range. Insulin and Glucagon (both hormones produced in the Pancreas) are used to regulate this balance. Insulin being used to help convert blood sugar into energy or fat. Where as Glucagon is only produced when blood sugar levels are low to encourage the release of sugar into the blood.

In untreated diabetes there is insufficient Insulin produced by the Pancreas to mop up all the sugar in the blood in the normal time leaving blood sugar levels high. This can be due to a failure of the Pancreas in Type 1 Diabetes or due to the body becoming resistant to Insulin with the body gradually needing more and more Insulin to deal with the same amount of sugar in Type 2 Diabetes.

Note that the graph shows typical examples only. The normal (non diabetic) readings are usually in the range of 4 to 7 mmol/l and the diabetic readings could vary over a considerable range, depending on what food had been eaten and the severity of the Diabetes.

Graph of Blood Sugar (Glucose) Change after a meal: Diabetic (top) & Normal.

Blood Sugar Level Change after a meal.

The lower (pink) line shows a normal reaction to a meal.
The upper (black) line show a untreated diabetic reaction to a meal.