Diabetes is a condition where the amount of glucose in your blood is too high because the body cannot use it properly. This is because your pancreas does not produce enough insulin, or the insulin that is produced does not work properly. There are more than 2 million people who have been diagnosed with diabetes and around 750,000 more people who don’t realise that they have it. The numbers are rising rapidly.
More than three-quarters of people with diabetes have type 2. This used to be known as non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) or maturity-onset diabetes mellitus. The number of people with type 2 diabetes is rapidly increasing as it commoner in the overweight and obese, which is itself a growing problem.
The remainder have type 1 diabetes mellitus, which used to be known as insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. Type 1 diabetes usually starts in childhood or young adulthood.
Who is at Risk?
- People over 40, or over 25 and African-Caribbean, Asian or from a minority ethnic group
- People with a close family member who has type 2 diabetes
- People who are overweight or who have a large waist size
- Women with polycystic ovary syndrome who are overweight
- Women who've had diabetes in pregnancy (gestational diabetes)
Signs and Symptoms
In type 1 diabetes, symptoms tend to develop rapidly over a couple of weeks, and are more severe. In type 2 diabetes, symptoms develop slowly and are usually milder. Common symptoms of both types of diabetes are:
- Increased thirst
- Passing water frequently, especially at night
- Tiredness and fatigue
- Loss of weight
- Genital itching or recurrent thrush
In type 1 diabetes, less common symptoms are: Cramps, Constipation, Blurred vision, Recurrent skin infections.
if you have been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes your GP will refer you to the hospital where a member of the diabetes specialist team will provide support, education and appropriate treatment to manage your condition.
You will see a dietitian who will help you with healthy eating. They will work with our diabetes specialist nurses to tailor an insulin routine to suit your lifestyles.
If you have been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes we will encourage you to come to a local education programme called HATT1E, to help improve your knowledge and fine tune your glucose control. You can contact University Hospital of Hartlepool and speak to a specialist nurse for advice on 01429 522594.
In type 2 diabetes, symptoms may go unnoticed for years - only when complications of diabetes, such as foot ulceration or blurred vision, occur is diabetes diagnosed. Remember, all the symptoms may not be present. Whenever any of these symptoms arise, it's important to be tested for diabetes. If you are concerned about the above symptoms please discuss this with your GP. Diagnosis is made by testing the volume of glucose in urine. A blood test that measures the level of glucose in the blood will confirm whether or not the underlying cause could be diabetes. Finally a 'glucose tolerance test' is performed where serial blood sugar levels are measured following a fixed dose sugary drink. A person with diabetes is unable to clear the blood sugar as quickly as a normal person.
University Hospital of Hartlepool run an education programme for people with type 2 diabetes, DESMOND (diabetes, education, self management, ongoing and newly diagnosed) to give you the information you need to understand diabetes. On this programme healthy lifestyle issues are discussed and individual patient needs are addressed. This is a national programme recommended by Diabetes UK and National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).
Living with Diabetes
It is vital for those with diabetes to monitor their blood sugar levels. This is done by obtaining a small blood sample by pricking the skin. The sample is placed on to a test strip, which is then read by an electronic glucose test meter. Weight and blood pressure should be measured regularly.
Annual eye examinations are recommended because diabetes can damage the blood vessels in the retina at the back of the eyes (called retinopathy) but laser treatment can be used to treat this when it's caught early enough.
Regular examinations of the feet and nerves should be carried out. Good foot care is essential to prevent infections and ulcers developing, which may be slow to heal. You can reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. Studies show that for overweight people at risk of diabetes, losing just five per cent of your body weight can more than halve the chance of progressing to diabetes. However although diabetes is a condition of sugar regulation, specific restriction of sugars isn’t necessary, except as part of ensuring a balanced diet overall. If you're living with diabetes you need to reduce your risk of developing associated diseases such as coronary heart disease, kidney and eye disease. This means losing weight, keeping your blood pressure and blood glucose as near normal as possible and having your cholesterol and tri-glycerides checked regularly.
The Diabetes Support Group meet at the Central Library in Hartlepool on the 1st and 3rd Friday of the month between 10am and 12noon. For more information contact 07818132671.