Diabetes is not a single disease (1). It is a set of diseases characterized by elevated plasma glucose level (1) due to insufficient insulin production (2). A simplified definition of diabetes can be, diabetes is a disease when body can’t produce enough insulin. From clinical perspective, diabetes mellitus is defined as a metabolic disorder which has multiple aetiology, resulted from insufficient insulin production, defect in insulin action, or both, and is characterized by chronic hyperglycaemia with disturbances of carbohydrate, fat and protein (2).

Aetiologically diabetes is classified in the following ways [Figure1] (3).

Figure 1 : Aetiological classification of diabetes

Diabetes is not a modern phenomenon.

In fact, a very similar condition was described centuries ago by the ancient Romans, Indians, Arabs, and the Greeks. In India, it was called Madhumeha, meaning honey urine. While in Greece, they named it Siphon, which is a reference to increased urination, still an important sign of diabetes today.

Diabetes is a complex disease which affects multiple organs in our body. Today it is diagnosed by way of a blood glucose test, or by an oral glucose tolerance test.

Simply put, diabetes is a term used to describe the body’s inability to produce sufficient amounts of insulin. Insulin is a pancreatic hormone, and functions as a main glucose regulator. It communicates with our liver as well as our muscle and adipose tissue, or in other words, the nervous system and the gastrointestinal tract, to make sure that our glucose levels are balanced because both high and low blood glucose levels are dangerous.

Next …

In the next blog you will know about the symptoms of diabetes.


  1. Dennedy MC, Rizza RA, Dinnen SF. Classification and Diagnosis of Diabetes Mellitus. Endocrinology: Adult and Pediatric. 7 ed: Elsevier Inc.; 2016.
  2. Alberti KGMM, Zimmet PZ. Definition, diagnosis and classification of diabetes mellitus and its complications. Part 1: diagnosis and classification of diabetes mellitus. Provisional report of a WHO Consultation. Diabetic Medicine. 1998;15(7):539-53.
  3. Frier BM, Fisher M. Diabetes Mellitus. In: Colledge NR, Walker BR, Ralston SH, Davidson S, editors. Davidson’s principles and practice of medicine. 21st ed. / the editors, Nicki R. Colledge, Brian R. Walker, Stuart H. Ralston ; illustrated by Robert Britton. ed. Edinburgh ;: Churchill Livingstone/Elsevier; 2010. p. 795-840.