What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic condition affecting 20% of the population of the UK. In a person not living with diabetes the pancreas creates and releases insulin automatically as required. This helps the body to turn glucose into energy and to regulate the levels of sugar in the blood. In people who are living with diabetes this either doesn’t happen at all, or happens in an ineffective way. So the blood ends up too much sugar in it and the body cannot process it properly.
Types of Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is where the body does not produce insulin at all. Insulin is needed to control blood sugar levels, so insulin injections or an insulin pump will be needed to correct the levels of insulin in the blood. There is an autoimmune element to type 1 diabetes. The cells of the pancreas attack themselves until it stops producing insulin. Type 1 diabetes is commonly diagnosed in childhood but not exclusively so. There is often a hereditary element to diabetes and there are no lifestyle changes that could have prevented it.
Type 2 diabetes is where the body either doesn’t produce insulin or cannot use it effectively.
People with type 2 diabetes may have to take medication, or in some cases use insulin. Some patients will be advised to change their diet and lifestyle, which will be enough to keep diabetes under control.
Unlike Type 1, Type 2 can sometimes be reversed by following a low-carb or low GI diet and taking plenty of exercise. Weight loss can also help in the case of those people who are carrying a little extra weight.
Some people are thought to be in a pre-diabetic phase where they haven’t quite got diabetes yet but should make some precautionary changes to their diet and lifestyle to help prevent it from developing into Type 2 diabetes
There is also gestational diabetes which is found in pregnancy where the body has a high level of blood glucose and is not producing enough insulin to deal with it all. Often people with gestational diabetes will find that all symptoms and problems go once the baby is born, although some people do continue to have diabetes after the birth.
Symptoms of diabetes
Whilst around 60% of people with type 2 diabetes experience no symptoms before diagnosis, here are some of the symptoms to watch out for
- Extreme thirst
- Unexplained weight loss (where you’re not actively trying to lose weight)
- Extreme tiredness and fatigue
- Skin not healing as quickly as expected
- Blurred vision
- Recurrent bouts of thrush and genital itching
- Needing to urinate frequently especially during the night.
If you have noted any of the symptoms listed above it is important to go get checked out by your GP. They will be able to run some tests and offer a diagnosis and treatment if needed.
Getting support to help you live with your diagnosis
There are several support organisations available to help you cope with living with diabetes. There is a wealth of information available on the internet too.