Diabetes: Overview

On this page

About diabetes

Diabetes is a chronic condition that develops when your body either doesn't produce or effectively use insulin, which it needs to turn sugar into energy. Diabetes can lead to serious complications if not properly managed, but steps can be taken to control it and lower your risk.

There are many different types of diabetes, each with their own:

  • causes
  • symptoms
  • treatment options

Each person experiences diabetes and its impacts on daily life differently.

There's currently no cure for diabetes, but some treatments may help to manage it and improve quality of life. The condition is not contagious.

Diabetes in Canada

Diabetes is one of the most common chronic diseases affecting people living in Canada.

Around 3.7 million people in Canada over a year old live with diagnosed diabetes (9.4% of the population). This number excludes gestational diabetes. In addition, over 6% of adults in Canada live with prediabetes, which gives them a higher chance of developing type 2 diabetes.

The number of people living with diabetes is expected to continue to increase as Canada's population ages and grows. This will result in increased costs that affect:

  • society
  • individuals
  • communities
  • healthcare systems

Diabetes is one of the most common chronic diseases among children and youth. Most children and youth with diabetes have type 1. However, type 2 diabetes is becoming more common due to the rise in childhood obesity.

The World Health Organization has identified diabetes as one of the major public health challenges of this century.

Learn more:

Types of diabetes

There are 3 main types of diabetes:

  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Gestational diabetes

Other uncommon types of diabetes can be caused by genetic mutations, other diseases or medications.

In all types of diabetes, the body either:

  • doesn't produce enough insulin or
  • doesn't use the insulin it produces effectively

Each type has different causes and may have different treatments.


Prediabetes happens when blood glucose levels are elevated, but lower than if you have type 2 diabetes. If you've been diagnosed with prediabetes, then you have an increased chance of developing type 2 diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes happens when the immune system destroys your pancreas' beta cells. This causes them to stop producing insulin.

Type 1 diabetes usually develops in childhood or early adulthood, and there is no known way to prevent it. Known risk factors include genetic predisposition and certain environmental factors. About 5 to 10% of people living with diabetes have type 1.

Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes happens when the body either:

  • doesn't make enough insulin or
  • doesn't respond well to the insulin it makes

Type 2 diabetes is the most common type. About 90 to 95% of people living with diabetes have type 2. People usually receive a diagnosis after the age of 40, but it's now becoming more common in younger people too.

This type of diabetes is often associated with being overweight or obese, and may be preventable by:

  • being physically active
  • maintaining a healthy weight
  • eating a variety of healthy foods

Gestational diabetes

Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes that develops during pregnancy and disappears after delivery. Gestational diabetes develops in about 10% of pregnancies. It increases the risk of both you and your child developing type 2 diabetes.

In most cases, blood glucose levels can be kept within an acceptable range by:

  • being physically active
  • eating a variety of healthy foods

If at least 2 weeks of healthy eating and regular physical activity don't manage your blood glucose levels, insulin injections may be needed.

Related links

Page details

Date modified: