Diabetes

There are two main types of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2. They’re different conditions, caused by different things, but they are both serious and need to be treated and managed properly.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a serious, life-long health condition that occurs when the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood is too high because the body can’t use it properly. If left untreated, high blood glucose levels can cause serious health complications.

Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that plays a very important role in our bodies. After we eat, we begin to digest carbohydrates, breaking them down into glucose.

The insulin released by the pancreas moves glucose into our cells, where it is used as fuel for energy. It may help to understand that insulin is often described as a key, which open the doors to the cells, allowing glucose to enter.

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition where the body attacks and destroys insulin-producing cells, meaning no insulin is produced.  This causes glucose to quickly rise in the blood.

It is not known exactly why this happens, but science tells us it’s got nothing to do with diet or lifestyle.

About 10 per cent of people with diabetes have Type 1.

Type 1 diabetes can develop at any age but usually appears before the age of 40, and especially in childhood.  It is the most common type of diabetes found in childhood.

Type 2 Diabetes

In Type 2 diabetes, the body doesn’t make enough insulin, or the insulin it makes doesn’t work properly, meaning glucose builds up in the blood.

Type 2 diabetes is caused by a complex interplay of genetic and environmental factors. Up to 58 per cent of Type 2 diabetes cases can be delayed or prevented by leading a healthy lifestyle.

About 90 per cent of people with diabetes have Type 2.

Type 2 diabetes usually appears in people over the age of 40 though in South Asian people, who are at greater risk, it often appears from the age of 25. It is also becoming increasingly common in children, adolescents and young people of all ethnicities. It can be managed by eating a healthy diet and taking part in  regular physical activity.

In addition to this, medication and/or insulin are often required.

Common Symptoms

  • Going to the toilet a lot, especially at night
  • Being really thirsty
  • Feeling more tired than usual
  • Losing weight without trying to
  • Genital itching or thrush
  • Cuts and wounds taking longer to heal
  • Blurred vision

These symptoms occur because some or all of the glucose stays in the blood, and isn’t 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.

What if I have some of these symptoms?

If you have any symptoms of diabetes, you should contact your GP. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have diabetes, but it’s worth checking: early diagnosis, treatment and good control are vital for good health and will reduce the chances of developing serious complications.

Alternatively, if you have received a blood result indicating that you are at high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, your GP may send you a letter offering you a referral onto the NHS National Diabetes Prevention Programme.

Ignoring Symptoms

It’s hard to ignore the signs of Type 1 diabetes because symptoms can often appear quite quickly. But leaving it 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 as it develops more slowly, especially in the early stages, when it can be difficult to spot the symptoms. However, untreated diabetes affects many major organs, including your heart, blood vessels, nerves, eyes and kidneys. Being diagnosed early and controlling your blood sugar levels can help prevent complications.

The National Diabetes Prevention Programme

The NHS National Diabetes Prevention Programme is a joint initiative between NHS England, Public Health England and Diabetes UK which aims to deliver services on a large scale, at no cost for those referred onto it.

Through this service, people identified as having non-diabetic hyperglycaemia or ‘prediabetes’ (high risk of developing type 2 diabetes) are offered an intense lifestyle intervention which will encompass group educational sessions. These are an evidence-based way of helping people to reduce their weight and increase physical activity, with the aim of reducing their blood sugar level to back within normal range.

If you have had a blood result within the last 12 months which indicates that you are at high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, your GP will send you a letter offering you a place on the programme.

If you receive a letter, or your GP offers you a place on the programme, it is highly recommended that you accept your place.  The programme is completely free of charge and evidence suggests that upon completion, individuals have reduced their risk of developing diabetes by 88%.  In some cases, the individual’s risk has been totally reversed.

The programme is being delivered locally in Gloucestershire by the provider Living Well, Taking Control and will focus on:

  • Healthy weight loss and weight management
  • Education on healthy diet
  • Advice on exercise and physical activity
  • Food labelling
  • Positive mental health and well-being

 

Children, teens and adults

Flash Glucose Monitoring Guidance for Children and Adults with Diabetes

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