Diabetes is a chronic condition marked by high levels of glucose in the blood. It is caused either by the inability to produce insulin (a hormone made by the pancreas to control blood glucose levels) or by the body not being able to use insulin effectively, or both.

Diabetes may result in a range of health complications, including heart disease, kidney disease, blindness and lower limb amputation. It is frequently associated with other chronic health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease and chronic kidney disease.

There are 3 main types of diabetes:

Type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is a lifelong autoimmune disease that usually has onset in childhood and adolescence. The exact cause is unknown, but it is believed to be the result of an interaction of genetic and environmental factors. A person with type 1 diabetes needs insulin replacement to survive and, except in cases where a pancreatic transplant occurs, insulin will be required every day for the rest of their life. They must also maintain a careful balance of diet, exercise and insulin intake.

Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes, while involving a genetic component, is largely preventable by maintaining a healthy lifestyle. It is the most common form of diabetes and occurs when the body becomes resistant to the insulin being produced by the pancreas and/or the amount produced is inadequate to meet the body's needs. Insulin is often used in the treatment of type 2 diabetes, but not in all cases. Modifiable risk factors that can lead to type 2 diabetes include insufficient physical activity, saturated fat intake, obesity, and tobacco smoking.

Gestational diabetes

Gestational diabetes occurs when higher than normal blood glucose is diagnosed in pregnancy. This generally occurs in the second or third trimester, among women who have not previously been diagnosed with other forms of diabetes, and can result in complications for mother and baby. While gestational diabetes may resolve after the baby is born, it can recur in later pregnancies and greatly increases the risk both for the mother and the baby, of developing type 2 diabetes later in life. Some women can manage their gestational diabetes by changes to diet and exercise, while others require oral hypoglycaemic (blood glucose-lowering) medications, insulin therapy, or both.


The AIHW undertakes national surveillance and monitoring of a number of prominent chronic conditions, including diabetes, along with their comorbidities and associated risk factors. The AIHW seeks to enhance the evidence on the impact of chronic conditions, including diabetes, through these monitoring activities by providing information and advice, addressing key policy priorities and filling key information gaps.