The International Diabetes Federation has reported that an estimated 366 million people worldwide suffer from diabetes.

The figures were announced in Lisbon during the European meeting of the group.

The clock is ticking for the world's leaders,'' said Jean Claude Mbanya, the group's president, in a statement. We expect action from their meeting next week at the United Nations that will halt diabetes' relentlessly upwards trajectory.''

It is estimated that diabetes causes 4.6 million deaths every year. Also health systems spend $465 billion annually fighting the disease. This will include both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes mellitus, often simply referred to as diabetes, is a group of metabolic diseases in which a person has high blood sugar, either because the body does not produce enough insulin, or because cells do not respond to the insulin that is produced.

This high blood sugar produces the classical symptoms of polyuria (frequent urination), polydipsia (increased thirst) and polyphagia (increased hunger).

Type 1 diabetes results from the body's failure to produce insulin, and presently requires the person to inject insulin.

Type 1 diabetes mellitus is characterized by loss of the insulin-producing beta cells of the islets of Langerhans in the pancreas leading to insulin deficiency. This type of diabetes can be further classified as immune-mediated or idiopathic. The majority of Type 1 diabetes is of the immune-mediated nature, where beta cell loss is a T-cell mediated autoimmune attack. There is no known preventive measure against Type 1 diabetes, which causes approximately 10 per cent of diabetes mellitus cases in North America and Europe.

Type 2 diabetes results from insulin resistance, a condition in which cells fail to use insulin properly, sometimes combined with an absolute insulin deficiency. The defective responsiveness of body tissues to insulin is believed to involve the insulin receptor. However, the specific defects are not known. Diabetes mellitus due to a known defect are classified separately. Type 2 diabetes is the most common type.

Type 1 diabetes is partly inherited and then triggered by certain infections.

Type 2 diabetes is due primarily to lifestyle factors and genetics.

Diabetes mellitus is a chronic disease which cannot be cured except in very specific situations. Management concentrates on keeping blood sugar levels as close to normal as possible, without causing hypoglycemia. This can usually be accomplished with diet, exercise, and use of appropriate medications.