Understanding diabetes

Background

There are two type of diabetes – Type 1 and Type 2.

Type 1 diabetes isn’t linked with age or being overweight. The causes are unknown and it is unpreventable. Only 10% of people with diabetes have Type 1.

Type 2 diabetes is much more common. It is linked to lifestyle factors and develops over time. Unlike Type 1 diabetes, it is largely preventable.

5 million people

in the UK are at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes

What happens

Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body either doesn’t produce enough insulin or the insulin it does produce doesn’t work properly. It can be a combination of both.

Diabetes can cause serious long-term health problems. It’s a leading cause of vision loss in people of working age. It’s also responsible for most cases of kidney failure and lower limb amputation (other than accidents). People with diabetes are at least twice as likely to develop heart disease or have a stroke than those without diabetes.

It’s therefore essential to be diagnosed as early as possible because Type 2 diabetes is likely to get worse if left untreated. Early diagnosis and treatment may also reduce the risk of developing complications later on.

The symptoms

Having too much glucose in your blood means you might:

  • Scales icon.

    Lose weight without trying

  • First aid icon.

    Cuts or wounds take longer to heal than usual

  • Eyesight icon.

    Suffer blurred vision

  • Bed icon.

    Feel very tired

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    Have itching around your genitals

  • Water drops icon.

    Feel thirsty all the time

  • Alarm clock and water drops icon.

    Wee more than usual, particularly at night

Many people have Type 2 diabetes without realising because the symptoms don’t always make you feel unwell.

Diagnosis

Type 2 diabetes if often diagnosed following a blood or urine test by your GP.

Your test results may show that you are starting to develop the disease, but that managing your lifestyle will slow or stop it. Your GP may refer you to Healthier You to help with this.

You can also see if you are you risk by taking the Know Your Risk test. If your risk is high then you can start on the Healthier You programme to reduce it.

Causes

There are several risk factors for Type 2 diabetes, some of which can’t be changed.

  • A family history of diabetes
  • Being overweight
  • High blood pressure
  • A history of a heart attack or stroke
  • A history of schizophrenia, bipolar illness or depression, or if you are receiving treatment with anti-psychotic medication
  • You’ve had polycystic ovaries, gestational diabetes, or a baby weighing 10+ pounds
  • Being over 40 & white or over 25 & African-Caribbean, Black-African, Chinese or South Asian