Diabetes is on the rise, with more people up and down the country being affected to the extent that almost 3.7 million people in the UK now suffer from this lifelong condition. By the year 2025, this condition is expected to affect over 10% of our population – over five million people!
Numbers often give substance to how serious a condition is and for diabetes it’s no different. Diabetes has no known cure and more than 70,000 people die from it every year in this country. Closer to home, in 2016/17 there were 51,376 adults living with diabetes across Warwickshire. This is an increase from 47,383 (9%) in 2014/15.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes occurs when the amount of glucose in the blood becomes too high because the body cannot use it properly, and the pancreas isn’t able to produce the insulin needed to help the glucose enter the body’s cells.
There are 2 main types of diabetes:
- type 1 diabetes – where the body's immune system attacks and destroys the cells that produce insulin
- type 2 diabetes – where the body doesn't produce enough insulin, or the body's cells don't react to insulin
Type 2 diabetes is far more common than type 1. In the UK, around 90% of all adults with diabetes have type 2.
During pregnancy, some women have such high levels of blood glucose that their body is unable to produce enough insulin to absorb it all. This is known as gestational diabetes.
What are the symptoms?
Visit your GP as soon as possible if you experience the main symptoms of diabetes, which include:
- feeling very thirsty
- urinating more frequently than usual, particularly at night
- feeling very tired
- weight loss and loss of muscle bulk
- itching around the penis or vagina, or frequent episodes of thrush
- cuts or wounds that heal slowly
- blurred vision
As well as taking on board health tips, you can find out about the symptoms to look out for, where to go if you are concerned and more information on diabetes and the treatments available on NHS Choices.
Have you been recently diagnosed?
If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, you'll need to eat healthily, take regular exercise and carry out regular blood tests to ensure your blood glucose levels stay balanced.
People diagnosed with type 1 diabetes also require regular insulin injections for the rest of their life.
As type 2 diabetes is a progressive condition, medication may eventually be required, usually in the form of tablets.
Living with and managing diabetes
Living with diabetes is difficult. There are so many factors to consider and this can be stressful, but you shouldn’t need to put your life on hold. Diet and lifestyle are key components in living healthily with diabetes.
Scarlett is a young woman managing her diabetes. Scarlett was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes as a teenager. She explains what it is like living with diabetes and her top tips of managing diabetes at a young age.
- Scarlett highlights the importance of daily routine with diabetes https://youtu.be/C3eAUFsu_GA
- Scarlett's advice for drinking responsibly with diabetes https://youtu.be/WnNyEYSfmog
- Scarlett's advice for drinking responsibly with diabetes (2) https://youtu.be/G5C2j-kyADM
- Scarlett's advice to eating healthily with diabetes https://youtu.be/KS34euCOxH4
- Scarlett's top tips for exercising with diabetes https://youtu.be/ru2rWDZzg-Y
- Scarlett's top tops for managing diabetes at work https://youtu.be/jYiHKwu9dTg
For more information and tips on living with diabetes, as well as where you can go for advice and support is available NHS Choices or Diabetes UK.
Diabetes education and self-management courses
When you are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes the amount of information that you need to understand and the impact of diabetes on your life can be quite overwhelming.
In Warwickshire we encourage all newly diagnosed diabetics to attend the DESMOND programme.
DESMOND (Diabetes Education and Self-Management for Ongoing and Newly Diagnosed) will help you become confident about different aspects of diabetes and develop a plan for you to manage your diabetes effectively.
The one day programme is informal and interactive, and is run by trainers for groups of between 10 and 15 people.
You will meet other people in the same situation as yourself and receive a handbook with the main messages from the programme.
The DESMOND programme is free to attend. Your GP will need to refer you, but you can phone your GP surgery to get a referral letter, so you don't need to make an appointment.