This article is the latest in the excellent series, “Things We Should Talk About” from Voluntary action Calderdale.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a lifelong condition that causes a person’s blood sugar level to become too high.
There are two main types of diabetes – type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes is far more common than type 1. In the UK, around 90% of all adults with diabetes have type 2. This article will focus on type 2 diabetes.
Most people would be shocked to know that around 22,000 people with diabetes die early every year. Type 2 diabetes is a leading cause of preventable sight loss in people of working age and is a major contributor to kidney failure, heart attack, and stroke. As well as the human cost, Type 2 diabetes treatment currently accounts for just under nine per cent of the annual NHS budget. This is around £8.8 billion a year.
There are currently 5 million people in England at high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. If current trends persist, one in three people will be obese by 2034 and one in ten will develop Type 2 diabetes. However, evidence exists which shows that many cases of Type 2 diabetes are preventable.
There is also strong international evidence which demonstrates how behavioural interventions, which support people to maintain a healthy weight and be more active, can significantly reduce the risk of developing the condition.
(Source: NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme)
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 prediabetes. 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.
Type 2 diabetes self-assessment
Take this quick and simple test to find out if you’re at risk of type 2 diabetes. Please note, this tool may not be accurate for anyone undergoing treatment for diabetes.
Symptoms of diabetes
The main symptoms of diabetes are:
- feeling very thirsty
- urinating 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
Many people have type 2 diabetes for years without realising because the early symptoms tend to be general. Type 1 diabetes can develop quickly over weeks or even days.
When to see a doctor
You should visit your GP as soon as possible if you have symptoms, such as feeling thirsty, passing urine more often than usual, and feeling tired all the time.
What causes 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 doesn’t work properly.
Type 2 diabetes is where the body doesn’t produce enough insulin, or the body’s cells don’t react to insulin. This is known as insulin resistance.
If you’re diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, you may be able to control your symptoms simply by eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and monitoring your blood glucose levels.
However, as type 2 diabetes is a progressive condition, you may eventually need medication, usually in the form of tablets.
Type 2 diabetes is often associated with obesity. Obesity-related diabetes is sometimes referred to as maturity-onset diabetes because it’s more common in older people.
Reducing you risk of developing diabetes?
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 main ways to reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes are eating a healthy, balanced diet (reducing saturated fat and sugar intake) and taking regular exercise (doing at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week). In addition, you should do physical activity to improve muscle strength at least two days a week. All adults should minimise the amount of time spent being sedentary (sitting) for extended periods. (Individual physical and mental capabilities should be considered when interpreting the guidelines)
(Source: NHS Choices)
Sources of Support
Your GP – You should visit your GP as soon as possible if you have symptoms, such as feeling thirsty, passing urine more often than usual, and feeling tired all the time.
Diabetes Support Group
Telephone: 01422 240528
Opening hours: Meets monthly at Maurice Jagger Centre in Halifax or St John’s Resource Centre in Huddersfield
Age range: All ages
The diabetes teams work in collaboration with colleagues in primary (GPs etc) and secondary care (hospitals etc) to offer cross boundary clinical expertise, education and support to people with diabetes, their carers and other agencies to make sure they have access to high quality and comprehensive diabetes services.
Calderdale Diabetes Hub
The Hub brings together useful local and national information and resources about diabetes.
Diabetes UK is the leading charity that cares for, connects with and campaigns on behalf of every person affected by or at risk of diabetes. They provide information, help and peer support, so people with diabetes can manage their condition effectively.
Telephone: 0345 123 2399