• Diabetes

    Diabetes is a lifelong condition that causes a person's blood sugar level to become too high.

    Overview

    There are 2 main types of diabetes:

    • type 1 diabetes – where the body's immune system attacks and destroys the cells that produce insulin
    • type 2 diabetes – where the body does not produce enough insulin, or the body's cells do not react to insulin

    During pregnancy, some women have such high levels of blood glucose that their body is unable to produce enough insulin to absorb it all. This is known as gestational diabetes.

    About Type 1 and 2 diabetes

    Type 1 diabetes causes the level of glucose (sugar) in your blood to become too high. It happens when your body can't produce enough of a hormone called insulin, which controls blood glucose. You need daily injections of insulin to keep your blood glucose levels under control. Managing type 1 diabetes can take time to get used to, but you can still do all the things you enjoy. Type 1 diabetes isn't linked with age or being overweight.

     

    Type 2 diabetes is a common condition that causes the level of sugar (glucose) in the blood to become too high. It can cause symptoms like excessive thirst, needing to pee a lot and tiredness. It can also increase your risk of getting serious problems with your eyes, heart and nerves. It's a lifelong condition that can affect your everyday life. You may need to change your diet, take medicines and have regular check-ups. It's caused by problems with a chemical in the body (hormone) called insulin. It's often linked to being overweight or inactive, or having a family history of type 2 diabetes.

    Pre-diabetes

    Many more people have blood sugar levels above the normal range, but not high enough to be diagnosed as having diabetes. This is sometimes known as pre-diabetes. If your blood sugar level is above the normal range, your risk of developing full-blown diabetes is increased. It's very important for diabetes to be diagnosed as early as possible because it will get progressively worse if left untreated.

    When to see a doctor

    Visit your your as soon as possible if you experience the main symptoms of diabetes, which include:

    • feeling very thirsty
    • peeing more frequently than usual, particularly at night
    • feeling very tired
    • weight loss and loss of muscle bulk
    • itching around the penis or vagina, or frequent episodes of thrush
    • cuts or wounds that heal slowly
    • blurred vision

    Type 1 diabetes can develop quickly over weeks or even days. Many people have type 2 diabetes for years without realising because the early symptoms tend to be general.

    Causes of diabetes

    The amount of sugar in the blood is controlled by a hormone called insulin, which is produced by the pancreas (a gland behind the stomach).

    When food is digested and enters your bloodstream, insulin moves glucose out of the blood and into cells, where it's broken down to produce energy.

    However, if you have diabetes, your body is unable to break down glucose into energy. This is because there's either not enough insulin to move the glucose, or the insulin produced does not work properly. There are no lifestyle changes you can make to lower your risk of type 1 diabetes.

    You can help manage type 2 diabetes through healthy eating, regular exercise and achieving a healthy body weight.

    Living with diabetes

    If you're diagnosed with diabetes, you'll need to eat healthily, take regular exercise and carry out regular blood tests to ensure your blood glucose levels stay balanced. You can use the BMI healthy weight calculator to check whether you're a healthy weight. People diagnosed with type 1 diabetes also require regular insulin injections for the rest of their life. As type 2 diabetes is a progressive condition, medicine may eventually be required, usually in the form of tablets.

    Diabetic screening

    Everyone with diabetes aged 12 or over should have their eyes screened once a year. If you have diabetes, your eyes are at risk from diabetic retinopathy, a condition that can lead to sight loss if it's not treated. Screening, which usually involves a 30-minute check to examine the back of the eyes, is a way of detecting the condition early so it can be treated more effectively.