Diabetes: It doesn’t have to control you
A BEACON SPECIAL REPORT
There are two main forms of diabetes, Type 1 and Type 2, and both can be controlled with the right medication. It doesn’t have to stop you leading the life you want, nor does it mean you will necessarily have other serious health problems in the future
With careful management you can ensure you control the condition and it doesn’t control you. However, if not treated properly it could cause serious health problems, and has been known in the worst cases to lead to limb amputations.
Basically, diabetes is a condition that causes a person’s blood glucose level to become too high. The amount of glucose 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 the bloodstream, insulin moves glucose out of the blood and into cells, where it is broken down to produce energy. However, if you have diabetes, glucose stays in the bloodstream as there is either not enough insulin (Type 1 diabetes), or the insulin produced does not work properly (Type 2 diabetes).
Liz Whittingstall, Lead Specialist Nurse in diabetes at St Mary’s Hospital, explained: “Type 1 diabetes can occur at any time in life and does so because the body stops producing insulin, or produces just a small amount. It is an auto-immune condition, and is not associated, for example, with being overweight. People with Type 1 need to go straight on to insulin injections.
“Type 2 diabetes is far more common as 90 per cent of people who have the condition have Type 2. It can be diagnosed at any age, and a mixture of factors can cause it. Risk factors can be ethnicity, age, whether it is in your family, and lifestyle factors such as size, or if you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol – all those sorts of things. There is a mixture of causes for Type 2, some of which are not completely known. One of the risk factors is being overweight, but you also get people with Type 2 who are quite slim. There are also genetic forms of diabetes, of which only a very small percentage of sufferers have those types.”
Liz continued: “You can get symptoms for both forms, but people tend to pick them up more with Type 1 diabetes because the insulin is not there any more. Symptoms include feeling thirsty, urinating more, weight loss and recurrent infections such as thrush. You can get those symptoms in Type 2 as well, but because you are still producing some insulin you may not get any of them. So you may have diabetes and not be aware of it. Approximately 3.5 million people in the UK are affected by diabetes with another 500,00 more thought to be living with undiagnosed diabetes.
“That is why Diabetes UK have a risk assessment questionnaire on line. It only comprises a few questions, and tells you what your risk is. If you are at moderate to high risk they will advise you to go along to your GP for a blood test.”
Research into diabetes, and possible cures, is ongoing, but anyone with the condition needs to maintain a healthy weight; avoid smoking; be active for 30 minutes a day, five times a week, and eat a healthy, balanced diet.
You also need to take medication as prescribed; once a year have your eyes and feet screened and have all your yearly blood and urine tests completed. Work with your diabetes care team to understand and manage your diabetes, and control other risk factors such as high blood pressure or cholesterol.
Anyone can check what their risk is of developing Type 2 diabetes by visiting:
diabetes.org.uk and then click on ‘Are you at risk’?