What is Diabetes?
An estimated 4 million people in the UK are living with diabetes; a figure predicted to rise to 5 million by 2025, but what exactly is diabetes, and what are the treatment options available to those living with it?
Diabetes occurs when your blood sugar, the body’s main source of energy, is too high. Usually, your pancreas produces enough of a hormone called insulin to regulate how much glucose from the food you eat is used for energy, but sometimes the body doesn’t produce enough insulin, or the insulin it produces doesn’t work well and the glucose stays in your blood instead of reaching your cells. Having high levels of glucose in your blood can cause health problems, sometimes manageable by a change in lifestyle, other times by taking prescribed medication.
There are a few types of diabetes: type 1, type 2, gestational and other, rarer types, including inherited diabetes and diabetes related to a condition called cystic fibrosis.
Type 1 diabetes is caused by your body not making any insulin, and is usually diagnosed in childhood or young adulthood. It’s caused by the body’s immune system attacking insulin-producing cells, and people with this type of diabetes need to take insulin every day to control their blood sugar levels.
Type 2 diabetes is a condition in which the body makes insulin but either does not make the right amount or doesn’t use it well. Commonly, this type of diabetes occurs in middle-aged and older people and can often be controlled by changing dietary and exercise habits, although medication may be prescribed. It is most likely in people with a family history of diabetes or who are overweight.
Gestational diabetes can develop during pregnancy and does not usually continue following the birth of the baby. Statistically, you are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes if you have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes.
If left untreated, diabetes can have ongoing health implications, including a higher risk of heart attack and stroke, kidney disease, vision problems, nerve damage, dental issues, and foot problems. If you have symptoms of diabetes, such as increased urination, feeling unusually thirsty and hungry, unexplained weight loss, sores, fatigue and numbness in the feet and hands, it’s worth speaking to your healthcare provider.