The truth about diabetes and what you must know

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Did you know that diabetes affects around 2.8 million people in the UK?

There are two different types and today I’m going to explore the topic in more detail.

Both types mean that a person has too much glucose in their blood because their pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin.

With type 1 the body produces no insulin. This condition usually appears before the age of 40 and affects between 5-15 per cent of all diabetics.

With type 2 the body produces some insulin but it isn’t enough, or doesn’t work properly. This affects people over the age of 40 and the risk factors include being overweight and having a close family member with the condition.

So, what are the symptoms?

· Passing urine more often than usual, especially at night

· Increased thirst

· Extreme tiredness

· Unexplained weight loss

· Slow healing of cuts and wounds

· Blurred vision

The symptoms are usually very obvious with type 1 diabetes and can develop very quickly. But symptoms are often less obvious for type 2 sufferers and may only be picked up in a routine check-up.

The symptoms disappear quite quickly once the diabetes is treated and under control. If you suffer from any of these symptoms, contact your GP and don’t rely on a self-diagnosis kit. Early diagnosis is vital to make sure you have the right treatment to reduce your chances of developing serious complications.

Type 1 diabetes is treated by daily insulin injections. A specialist team of doctors and nurses will adjust the dose according to the person’s needs.

Type 2 diabetes is generally treated with a healthy diet and increased amounts of exercise. Sufferers may also need medication.

Diabetics are at an increased risk of diseases such as kidney and heart disease, as well as nerve damage. They could also suffer from diabetic retinopathy, where damage to the retina can cause vision problems.

Another side effect is a hypo, caused by high levels of diabetes medication, missed meals, lack of carbohydrates, strenuous activity and too much alcohol. It causes shakiness, sweating, palpitations, blurred vision, irrational behaviour and the sufferer may lose consciousness. If this happens, it’s important to take action quickly.

Having a short-acting carbohydrate such as a sports drink, glucose tablets, sweets or a glass of fruit juice, followed by a longer-acting one such as a sandwich, fruit, cereal or biscuits, will prevent it from becoming too serious.

Ketoacidosis is another serious condition that can be caused by type 1 diabetes. It occurs when the body produces an acidic by-product called ketones.

They cause high blood glucose levels and dehydration and can lead to coma. Ketones can be detected by a simple urine test.

If the results are positive, call your doctor or diabetes specialist nurse immediately, or go to your nearest casualty department.

Making sensible food choices and adapting your eating habits will help you manage your diabetes and protect your long term health.

Reduce the amount of fat, salt and sugar in your diet. Grill, bake, poach or steam food, rather than frying it.

Make sure you don’t skip meals and include starchy carbohydrates with each meal to control your blood glucose levels.

Only drink alcohol in moderation. It can alter your blood glucose levels, increase the risk of a hypo and make you less aware of the warning signs. Stop smoking and keep active to manage your weight. But speak to your GP if you change your exercise regime as your medication might need changing.