Type-2 diabetes is the most widespread kind of diabetes. Its onset may be delayed or avoided by adopting a healthy lifestyle (healthy nutrition, physical exercise and weight watching). Type-1 diabetes, on the other hand, cannot be prevented.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic illness related to a failure in the production or reception mechanism of insulin:

  • either the pancreas does not produce insulin at all or does not produce enough
  • or the body has become resistant to insulin.

Insulin is a hormone which allows the cells of the body to take up sugar, so regulating blood sugar levels.

When insulin is not produced in sufficient quantities or when the body has become resistant to insulin, the sugar is no longer transported to the cells and it accumulates in the blood: this is called hyperglycaemia.

Type-2 diabetes is the most widespread kind: it concerns about 90% of diabetics, as against 10% for Type-1.

Type-1 diabetes

Type-1 diabetes is an auto-immune disease: the body itself destroys the cells of the pancreas. The pancreas is therefore unable to produce sufficient insulin, a hormone which enables the sugar to be distributed to the cells, so regulating the levels of sugar in the blood.

Type-1 diabetes is in part genetic and hereditary. It is generally diagnosed at an early stage, in childhood, hence its name of “juvenile” diabetes. But these names are less and less relevant as nearly half of all cases appear after the age of 20.

Type-2 diabetes

Type-2 diabetes occurs when the body is no longer able to use insulin properly. The pancreas continues to secrete insulin but the body has become resistant to it. This is often the result of overweight and a lack of physical activity, even if genetic and hereditary factors also play a role.

Up to recently, Type-2 diabetes has appeared progressively in adults from the age of 40, and for this reason it is called “adult-onset” or “maturity-onset” diabetes. However, for some years now it has also been observed in overweight or obese children and adolescents.

Other types of diabetes

Gestational diabetes is the hyperglycaemia found in pregnancy.


Sciensano measures the prevalence of diabetes in the population and monitors the quality of care given to diabetic patients with the aim of improving it.

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