More than 4 million people in the UK alone live with diabetes. There are two main types (which we will touch upon today), but there are also rarer forms of the condition. Diabetes is a life-long condition but with the right form of treatment and care, those affected can still lead a happy and healthy life.
What Are The Two Main Types of Diabetes?
Type 1 – This is when the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the cells that produce insulin. People with type 1 diabetes are insulin dependent, this means that they will have to take insulin injections every day for the rest of their life. This type of diabetes can develop quickly, in the matter of weeks or even days in some cases.
Type 2 – This is when the body does not produce enough insulin or the body’s cells do not react to the insulin in the way that they are supposed to. This type of diabetes is often related to being overweight and can be controlled via lifestyle changes and tablets may be prescribed. Type 2 can go undetected for many years.
90% of people with diabetes are diagnosed with type 2, making this the most common type. Both conditions are serious and can lead to various complications.
Symptoms of Diabetes:
- Feeling very thirsty
- Having to urinate more frequently (especially of a night time)
- Feeling very tired
- Weight loss or loss of muscle bulk
- Itching in intimate areas, or frequent episodes of thrush
- Cuts or wounds healing very slowly
- Blurred vision
Insulin is created within the pancreas and allows glucose (sugar) in our blood to enter our cells and fuel our body, giving us energy. When there is sugar in our bloodstream, the pancreas senses this and produces the right amount of insulin so that the glucose can enter our cells. However, for people with diabetes, this system does not work. Either their immune system is attacking and destroying the cells which produce insulin, therefore stopping the glucose from leaving the bloodstream (type 1) or the body is not producing enough insulin in the first place, or the cells are not reacting to the insulin (type 2).
Over a long period of time, high glucose levels in your blood can lead to serious complications:
Complications of Diabetes:
Every week, more than 160 amputations occur, 680 people have a stroke, 530 have a heart attack and there are almost 2000 cases of heart failure… all as a result of diabetes.
Diabetics may experience Hypo’s and/or Hypers depending on their blood sugar levels.
A Hypo (Hypoglycaemia) is when the individual’s blood sugar levels are too low (usually below 4mmol/l). This could be due to the balance of medication, food, and physical activity not being right. Hypos can happen quickly so it is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms:
- May experience trembling and feeling shakey
- May experience sweating
- Feeling anxious and/or irritable
- Going pale
- Having palpitations and a fast pulse
- Tingling sensation in lips
- Blurred sight
- Feeling hungry
- Being tearful
- Lack of concentration
It helps if you take regular blood sugar tests so that you are able to spot a Hypo before experiencing any symptoms.
A hypo may occur if you skip meals, if you do not have enough carbohydrates, if you exercise too much without adjusting your insulin intake (if you take it), If you were to take more insulin than needed or if you drink alcohol on an empty stomach.
If you feel as though you are experiencing a Hypo, it can help to have a sugary drink or snack to help boost your sugar levels back up to a more acceptable figure.
A Hyper (Hyperglycaemia) is when your blood sugar levels go too high (above 7mmol/l before food or 8.5mmol/l 2 hours after food). This could lead to symptoms such as:
- Passing more urine than usual
- Feeling very thirsty
- Feeling tired and lethargic
This could occur if the individual misses a dose of their medication, has eaten more carbohydrates than their body and medication can handle, they have been unwell due to infection, they have been feeling stressed or if they have over-treated a Hypo.
If regular Hypos or Hypers occur, you should speak to a GP or you Diabetic health team in order to review your medication and/or lifestyle plan.
It can help to drink plenty of sugar-free drinks or taking a little bit more insulin if necessary.
Other complications of diabetes include:
- Eye problems
- Foot problems
- Kidney problems
- Nerve damage
- Heart attack/stroke
- Gum disease
- Related conditions (such as cancer)
- Sexual problems
There are regular check-ups that you will be entitled to as a diabetic, it is important that you go to all of your appointments and make extra ones if you feel as though there is an issue to be concerned about.
You should have at least 1 checkup in each of these areas per year:
- Blood sugar testing (HBAC1 test)
- Blood pressure check
- Cholesterol checks
- Eye screenings
- Foot and leg checks
- Kidney checks
Please make sure you are honest in these appointments and voice any concerns that you might have.
Attending regular checkups, taking your blood on a daily basis from home, ensuring you are taking all medications correctly and responsibly and having any issues checked out as soon as possible will all help to reduce the risk of experiencing any of the complications mentioned above. They may not always be preventable, but you can lower your chances of developing these issues or slow their development down if you look after yourself properly and manage your condition responsibly.