Diabetes is a disease where your body cannot control its blood sugar levels properly – either because your body doesn’t make enough (or any) insulin, or because your cells have become resistant to insulin.

Insulin is a chemical produced in the pancreas. It helps your body process sugars.

  • If blood sugar levels aren’t kept under control, diabetes can be life-threatening.
  • Diabetes can lead to other health conditions, including kidney failure, eye disease, foot ulceration and a higher risk of heart disease.
  • Keeping your blood sugar at a safe level means you’re less likely to have other health problems.

Type 1 diabetes is a lifelong auto immune condition where people must replace insulin to survive.

People with type 2 diabetes may be able to reverse diabetes by lifestyle and weight loss measures and achieve remission.

How common is diabetes?

There are over 250,000 people in New Zealand who have been diagnosed with diabetes (mostly type 2).

  • Diabetes is more common among Māori, Pacific and South Asian people.
  • The number of people with both types of diabetes is rising – especially lifestyle-related type 2 diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is when your body has stopped producing insulin. People with type 1 diabetes need to inject insulin to live.

  • Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children.
  • Type 1 diabetes is less common than type 2 diabetes.
  • 5 to 10 percent of people with diabetes in New Zealand have Type 1 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is when your cells have become insulin resistant or your body doesn’t produce enough insulin to keep you healthy.

  • Type 2 diabetes usually develops in adults but it is becoming more common in young people.
  • Type 2 diabetes is the only type of diabetes linked to, but not always caused by, obesity.
  • Māori, Pacific and South Asian people are more likely to have type 2 diabetes and develop complications of the condition.

Diabetes in pregnancy

Pregnant people can also develop diabetes. This is known as gestational diabetes (or ‘diabetes in pregnancy’). It usually goes away when the baby is born.

Around 50% of people who have gestational diabetes will go on to develop type 2 diabetes in their lifetime. It is important to be checked regularly after the baby is born.

Find out more at Testing for diabetes in pregnancy.

Diabetes ​websites

Diabetes New Zealand
Support and information for people with diabetes.

Diabetes Youth New Zealand
Support for children with diabetes and their families.

Information on managing diabetes.

Health Navigator
The Health Navigator NZ website helps you find reliable and trustworthy health information and self-help resources about diabetes.

Developed by the Starship Foundation and the Paediatric Society of New Zealand, this website contains lots of information for children growing up with diabetes.

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