You may have heard that diabetes has something to do with having too much or too little sugar in the blood. But what does that mean? Where does the sugar come from, and where does it go? And what the heck is it doing there, anyway?
Everybody has some amount of sugar, or glucose, in their blood. We couldn't live without it! Glucose comes from the food we eat. Nearly everything we eat gets broken down into glucose. It helps cells to grow and get the power they need to do their job.
Most people's bodies do an amazingly good job of controlling the amount of glucose in their blood. One of the body's organs, called the pancreas, makes a very important substance called insulin. Insulin does most of the work in moving glucose out of the blood to where it's needed in the rest of the body's cells. In a person who doesn't have diabetes, the pancreas produces just the right amount of insulin needed by the body.
But when someone has the disorder called diabetes, their body has trouble controlling the level of glucose in its blood. Either the person's pancreas can't make insulin, or can't make enough insulin, or their body has a problem using the insulin it does make.
Scientists are still not sure exactly what causes diabetes. But they do know that it has something to do with genetics (the things about you and your body that are passed down to you biologically, by your parents) and something to do with environment (the things that are not passed down to you by your parents but which affect your body day to day). They also believe that viruses may be involved.