During November the NHS and Diabetes UK aim to create and build awareness around diabetes ensuring more people know the symptoms for the disease to make diagnosis more efficient. Diabetes is a lifelong condition that causes a patient’s level of blood sugar to become too high. There are two main types of diabetes, they are Type 1 and Type 2. Early diagnosis or detection can in some cases be life saving or at the very least ensure appropriate treatment or course of action.
Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is when your body is unable to make a hormone called insulin therefore your blood glucose levels get too high. This happens because your body attacks cells in your pancreas that make insulin meaning the production is limited. Insulin allows the glucose in our blood to enter our cells that then fuel our body. Bodies break down carbohydrates from food and drink and turn it into glucose, as there is no insulin being produced, more and more glucose builds up in your bloodstream leading to high blood sugar levels. Type 1 diabetes is far less common than type 2 however it is just as serious. Managing type 1 diabetes is challenging however it includes exercising, carb counting and eating a healthy balanced diet.
Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is slightly different as it occurs when your body cannot make enough insulin or the insulin doesn’t work properly. Similarly, to type 1, your blood sugar levels keep rising. Around 90% of people with diabetes in the UK have type 2. If left untreated the high blood sugar levels can damage your body including your eyes, heart and feet. Although there is no cure for type 2 diabetes you can put your diabetes into remission after courses of medication – this means your blood sugar levels are healthy and you can come off medication.
When to see a doctor
Many people have blood sugar levels above the normal range, but they are not high enough to be diagnosed as having diabetes. This is referred to as pre-diabetes, meaning your risk of developing diabetes is increased. There are several main symptoms of diabetes, if you experience any of these we recommend you visit your GP as soon as possible:
– Having an increased feeling of thirst
– Going to the toilet more frequently than normal, especially at night
– Feeling very tired for no known reason
– Unexplained weight loss
– Itching around the penis or vagina, or frequent episodes of thrush
– Cuts and wounds healing slowly
– Blurred vision
Type 1 diabetes can develop very quickly over a matter of days or weeks. Many people who have type 2 diabetes often go years without realising it because their early symptoms tend to be more general.
Treatments for patients with type 1 diabetes
Insulin Pumps and Injections
Insulin will need to enter your body regularly to maintain your blood sugar levels. The regularity depends on your blood sugar levels during different times of the day. Using an insulin pump can be a good alternative to injecting as it can give you more flexibility. The pump is a small electronic device that gives your body insulin regularly throughout the day and night – you can attach the pump to your trousers, attached to the machine is a tube that enters your stomach to secret the insulin.
Islet Cell Transplant
Islet cell transplantation involves extracting islet cells from the pancreas of a deceased donor and then implanting them to the liver of someone with type 1 diabetes. The minor procedure is often carried out twice for each transplant patient and can be performed with minimal risk using a needle under local anaesthetic.
Treatments for patients with type 2 diabetes
Tablets and Medication
Medication can help manage your blood sugar levels. The most common medication prescribed is metformin which helps the insulin your pancreas produces work better. There are also tablets available that can stimulate the pancreas to produce more insulin. People may also be prescribed tablets to help weight loss.
Diet and Exercise
Many people with type 2 diabetes do not need to take any medication as they manage their diabetes by eating well and moving more. Research from Diabetes UK has shown that weight loss alone can put type 2 diabetes into remission.
Often, insulin is used as a short-term treatment for people with type 2 diabetes as it can quickly help with bringing down your blood sugar levels. You may need to start taking insulin more regularly if the above treatments fail to work for you.
If you have any queries about diabetes, we recommend you look to the NHS website or Diabetes UK. There are several support groups available in the nearby area for people with diabetes, you can find the ones closest to you here. Please get in touch with your GP if you believe you have any of the symptoms mentioned in this article.