Diabetes is a common life-long health condition. There are 3.3 million people diagnosed with diabetes in the UK and an estimated 590,000 people who have the condition, but don’t know it.
Diabetes is a condition where the amount of glucose in your blood is too high because the body cannot use it properly. This is because your pancreas doesn’t produce any insulin, or not enough insulin, to help glucose enter your body’s cells – or the insulin that is produced does not work properly (known as insulin resistance). We need glucose in our body because it is used as fuel for energy so we can work, play and generally live our lives. It is vital for life.
Glucose comes from digesting carbohydrate and is also produced by the liver.
If you have diabetes, your body cannot make proper use of this glucose so it builds up in the blood and can’t be used as fuel.
There are two main types of diabetes: Type 1 diabetes and Type 2 diabetes.
TYPE 1 – There is no insulin to unlock the cells
TYPE 2 – There is not enough insulin or the insulin is there but not working properly
What are the signs and symptoms of diabetes?
Diabetes symptoms occur because some or all of the glucose stays in the blood rather than being used as fuel for energy.
The body tries to reduce blood glucose levels by flushing the excess glucose out of the body in the urine.
In Type 1 diabetes the signs and symptoms are usually very obvious and develop very quickly, typically over a few weeks. The symptoms are quickly relieved once the diabetes is treated and under control.
In Type 2 diabetes the signs and symptoms may not be so obvious, as the condition develops slowly over a period of years and may only be picked up in a routine medical check up. Symptoms are, however, quickly relieved once diabetes is treated and under control.
If you have any of the symptoms listed you should contact your GP immediately. Early diagnosis, treatment and good control of diabetes is vital to reduce the chances of developing serious diabetes complications.
What happens if you ignore symptoms?
Leaving Type 1 diabetes untreated can lead to serious health problems, including diabetic ketoacidosis, which can result in a potentially fatal coma.
Type 2 diabetes can be easier to miss, especially in the early stages when the underlying symptoms may not be apparent. But diabetes affects many major organs, including your heart, blood vessels, nerves, eyes and kidneys. Being diagnosed early and controlling your blood glucose levels can help prevent these complications.
Reduce your risk of diabetes
Type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented. But up to 80 per cent of cases of Type 2 diabetes can be delayed or prevented by making simple changes in our everyday lives.
How can I reduce my risk?
In Type 1 diabetes, the body’s immune system destroys the insulin-producing cells, but currently the cause remains uncertain. Type 2 diabetes is a little more complex. It’s the combination of our genes and our lifestyle that influences the development of Type 2 diabetes and puts us at risk.
Some of the risk factors for Type 2 diabetes – such as age, ethnic background, or family history – can’t be changed, but others can. The good news is that we can all make small changes to help us reduce our risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. The most important changes are healthy eating and getting more active.
For further information, contact Diabetes UK who are there to help you make small changes that can make a big difference to your life. They have lots of information and tools to help you reduce your risk.
To find out more visit www.diabetes.org.uk or call 0345 123 2399.
The main symptoms of diabetes include:
- passing urine more often than usual, especially at night
- increased thirst
- extreme tiredness
- unexplained weight loss
- genital itching or regular episodes of thrush
- slow healing of cuts and wounds
- blurred vision