Understanding diabetes: A guide for students

Written by Guest Blogger

Vy Tran is a dedicated fourth-year nursing student. She is passionate about nursing and her dream is to become an Emergency RN to gain valuable experience in high-pressure situations. Beyond the walls, Vy finds joy in her dog and empowering others. Vy is excited to merge her love for care and teaching as she embarks on this fulfilling journey in the world of nursing! 

I know that as a student it can be tricky to balance our studies, work and taking care of ourselves. You may have heard the term diabetes before, may know someone who has it or may have it yourself. In this YU Blog, we’ll look at the different types of diabetes and what you can do to manage it, treat it and help others around you. 

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic health condition that can happen when your body has trouble managing glucose (sugar) levels in your blood. There are different types of diabetes, but it often occurs when your body either can’t make enough insulin or doesn’t use it efficiently, causing high blood sugar levels.

Insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, helps your body absorb glucose for energy. 

Diabetes can affect daily life and requires extra attention to diet, medication and lifestyle. When this process is disrupted, it can lead to serious health complications, like heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure and mental health issues. 

Type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes, also known as insulin-dependent diabetes, happens when the body's immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys the cells in the pancreas that make insulin. It often develops during childhood or your teen years, but  can also develop in adults.  

People with type 1 diabetes require daily insulin injections or the use of an insulin pump to manage their blood sugar levels. Diabetes Canada has more information about the tech that is used to help manage diabetes. 

Type 2 diabetes

This is the most common form of diabetes and occurs when the body becomes resistant to insulin or doesn't produce enough of it. It’s often linked to lifestyle factors such as a poor diet, lack of physical activity and obesity. It’s more common in adults, but is becoming increasingly diagnosed in children and adolescents due to the rise in childhood obesity rates.  

Treatment for type 2 diabetes can include lifestyle modifications, oral medications and insulin therapy.


Prediabetes is a condition where blood sugar levels are higher than normal and is a warning sign for potentially developing type 2 diabetes in the future. But, with lifestyle changes like regular exercise and a balanced diet, it’s possible to prevent or delay its onset.

Gestational diabetes

Gestational diabetes can develop during pregnancy when the body can’t produce enough insulin to meet the extra demand. It usually resolves after childbirth, but women who have had gestational diabetes are at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

Monitoring blood sugar levels, maintaining a healthy diet and staying physically active are essential for managing gestational diabetes and ensuring the health of both the mother and the baby. 

Risk factors

Diabetes can be influenced by a lot of different factors, including: 

  • high blood pressure 

  • being over 40 years old 

  • a high body mass index (BMI) or being overweight, especially if extra weight is carried around the belly 

  • abnormal blood lipid levels (high levels of cholesterol or other fats in the bloodstream) 

Learn more about diabetes risk factors from Diabetes Canada.

Signs and symptoms

Common symptoms of diabetes to look out for include: 

  • having to urinate (pee) a lot, often at night 
  • excessive thirst 
  • unexplained weight loss 
  • increased hunger 
  • feeling very tired  
  • wounds that heal slowly 
  • blurred vision 

Treatment and management

There are many things you can do to treat diabetes. Keeping your blood sugar levels in check is key to help manage it and minimize the risk of any potential complications. Medication, a healthy lifestyle, and keeping an eye on your overall health are the best ways to do this. 

There are also additional methods to help treat diabetes, including insulin therapy and changes to your diet, exercise routine and weight.

Pro tip: If you have any questions or are looking for more health-related information, visit York’s Student Health website for a range of resources dedicated to supporting your journey towards better health!