The number of people with Diabetes has risen from 108 million in 1980 to 422 million in 2014. It is the biggest cause of kidney failure, blindness, stroke, heart attacks, blindness and lower limb amputation.

In 2015 it was estimated that 1.6 million deaths were caused by diabetes (WHO, 2017). It is estimated that 549,000 people are living in the UK with undiagnosed Diabetes.

In This Section

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic condition that is when the pancreas cannot produce enough insulin for the body or when the body cannot use the insulin efficiently. Insulin is a hormone within the body produced by the pancreas that regulates the sugar level in the blood stream.

The difference between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes

Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus is when the body does not produce any insulin, so the body requires insulin to be injected numerous times each day. The cause of Type 1 diabetes is unknown but it is the most common form of diabetes in children. Symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes are: excessive secretion of urine (polyuria), thirst (polydipsia), constant hunger, weight loss, vision changes, fatigue. These symptoms can be gradual or a sudden onset, but if it is not diagnosed and managed correctly it can be dangerous for the individual.

Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus is when the body cannot produce enough insulin or does not use the insulin produced effectively. The main cause of Type 2 Diabetes is obesity and lack of physical exercise. Unfortunately, this is mainly in adults, but as obesity throughout the UK is growing it is becoming more common in children. Common symptoms of type 2 diabetes are: excessive urination (polyuria), thirst (polydipsia), fatigue, headaches, dry mouth.

Watch the video link below to see the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus.

How is Diabetes diagnosed?

You need to see a Doctor or Diabetes nurse and they will take a history of your symptoms. If it sounds like you may have diabetes, they will take a blood test to screen for the condition. They will either take a glucose or HbA1c test, they will inform you if you need to fast prior to the blood test. If the initial result is raised, they will need to repeat the test to confirm a diabetes diagnosis. Please be aware that in pregnancy they will perform different tests and if the Doctor or Nurse suspect Type 1 diabetes.

What to expect after Type 1 Diabetes diagnosis

Normally you are started on an Insulin regime with close support. You will be referred to the Diabetic team where you will be educated and supported about your condition. You will be referred for annual retinal screening and a diabetic foot check. You might have to have regular blood tests until your condition is stabilized.

Type 2 Diabetes diagnosis: what to expect

There are different levels of type 2 diabetes and if your sugars are not too high or making you feel unwell you are not always started on medication. Some health care professionals 

will give you a 3-month lifestyle trial if they feel you understand how diabetes works and that you know what changes can be made to your diet and exercise routine to improve your sugars.

However, if you are symptomatic and have high sugars, sometimes it is vital that treatment is started straight away to prevent further medical problems from occurring. Your Doctor or nurse will explain all of this to you.

Type 2 Diabetes Routine Appointments

Type 2 diabetes is normally managed in primary care by the nurse and GP. You will be expected to attend 6 monthly or more frequently if your blood sugars are not with a good range. You will need to attend annual retinal screening and a diabetic foot check. 

How to prevent Type 2 Diabetes

Ensure that you keep your weight within a healthy range, which can be done by eating healthily. The NHS recommend that you eat 5-7 portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Regular exercise of 30 minutes cardiovascular 5 times a week. If you are struggling with your weight, seek help to learn how you can reduce it. Avoid sugary drinks and food as this can lead to too much sugar in the blood stream. 

What does Pre-diabetes mean?

If you are told that you have prediabetes, this doesn’t mean that you have diabetes but it means you are at high risks of diabetes. From this point, you will need an annual blood test at your surgery and it is important that you focus on improving your lifestyle by eating well and exercising regularly.

When to see a Doctor or Diabetes Nurse

  • When your sugars are not being controlled
  • When your medication is causing side effects
  • If you notice any problems with your feet or eyes


National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (2017) Type 2 diabetes: prevention in people at high risk 

NHS (2016) Diabetes 

World Health Organisation (2017) Diabetes 

Read more about Type 2 Diabetes in our Coffee break interview with Dr Nelson of Oak Tree Surgery here.

NHS ‘Are you at risk?’ Checker

Use the following NHS Diabetes self-assessment tool to see if you could potentially be at risk from type 2 Diabetes.