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Published: 6th July, 2020 in: Diabetes
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a condition in which the blood sugar level in your body becomes too high. It is a lifelong condition that once you have developed you cannot recover from. There are many ways in which you can manage your diabetes however so that the symptoms and associated risks are reduced. Diabetes affects the level of insulin in your blood. Insulin is the hormone used to break down glucose from food in order to produce energy. When there is not enough insulin however, this glucose cannot be broken down and thus remains in your bloodstream resulting in high blood sugar. If not managed properly diabetes can lead to a range of health issues including cardiovascular disease, damage to your kidneys, nerves, eyes and feet, hearing impairment and skin conditions.
What is the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes?
There are two main types of diabetes, type 1 and type 2. Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body’s immune system attacks the cells that produce insulin, destroying them and therefore allowing glucose to build up in the bloodstream. There is nothing you can do to reduce the likelihood of developing type 1 diabetes. It can develop at any age however it is more likely to develop in children and adolescents, with symptoms progressing quickly and severely.
Type 2 diabetes on the other hand is heavily affected by certain risk factors. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, or the body’s cells do not react to it thus resulting in a build-up of glucose in the bloodstream. This is the most common form of diabetes, with 90% of diabetes sufferers in the UK developing type 2 diabetes rather than type 1.
Risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes include:
- Weight - the more fat you have, the more resistant cells become to insulin
- Genetics - the risk of developing type 2 diabetes is increased if a parent or sibling also has the condition
- Race - a larger proportion of south Asian, Chinese, African Caribbean and black African origin (even if you were born in the UK) develop type 2 diabetes. It is not currently known why they are more likely to develop the condition
- Exercise - if you do not do enough exercise the glucose within your body does not get used up as energy and thus is more likely to build up in your bloodstream
- Age - those over 40 (or 25 for south Asian people) tend to be more at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, however, it has been shown that diabetes is also increasing in children and adolescents
- High blood pressure - high blood pressure has also been linked to type 2 diabetes
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome - this can increase the chances of a woman becoming obese and thus increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes
- Pre-diabetes - if your blood sugar is above the normal range you are at risk of developing full-blown type 2 diabetes
Symptoms of Diabetes
Many people develop type 2 diabetes without even realising it. This is because the symptoms can often be mild and take time to present themselves. It is important to get any form of diabetes diagnosed as quickly as possible however as symptoms will become progressively worse and can do so in a short period of time.
You should visit your GP if you suffer from the following symptoms:
- You feel very thirsty
- You are urinating more frequently than usual, especially throughout the night
- You have lost weight and muscle mass
- You experience frequent episodes of thrush or itching around the penis or vagina
- Your cuts and wounds take a long time to heal fully
- Your vision is often blurred
Managing your diabetes is essential in ensuring you do not put yourself at a greater risk or serious conditions such as cardiovascular disease or kidney damage. For both types of diabetes you must eat healthily, exercise regularly and measure blood glucose levels frequently to ensure they remain within healthy parameters. In order to test blood sugar levels, you will require a blood glucose monitor such as the Glucomen Areo Blood Glucose Testing System. This includes the testing meter, test strips, pricking device and lancets; everything you need to test your blood glucose level. Further test strips and lancets can also be purchased. You should also go for regular eye tests as diabetes can result in sight loss if not managed correctly.
As diabetes can also cause skin conditions, particularly around the feet, you may also want to use a treatment such as the GlucoRx Allpresan Diabetic Foam Cream. The cream treats dry and sensitive skin, boosting the skin’s barrier function, helping to protect the skin against infections and ulcerations.
In terms of medication for diabetes, type 1 and type 2 diabetes tend to be treated differently. This is because the underlying cause of the condition is different depending on the type of diabetes you suffer from. You should visit your GP as soon as possible if you are worried about diabetes. They will be able to accurately test and diagnose you with the condition should you have it. Your GP will also prescribe a treatment plan personalised for your health and condition management.
Managing Type 1 Diabetes
Those suffering from type 1 diabetes will likely be treated with insulin injections. Injections will be taken for the rest of the sufferer's life; this is because the pancreas does not make insulin, therefore, the body needs to be given the required insulin artificially in order to control blood sugar levels. You may be prescribed long-acting insulin. This will be taken just once, or perhaps twice, a day. It provides your body with insulin regardless of the food you eat, helping to keep your blood sugar levels steady. You may however be prescribed fast-acting insulin to be taken with food or drink. This acts rapidly to reduce the spike in glucose caused by eating or drinking. You should also remember to eat healthily and exercise frequently to help in managing type 1 diabetes.
Managing Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is often first treated with a prescribed medicine known as metformin. Metformin reduces the amount of sugar entering your bloodstream from your liver and helps to improve the body’s response to insulin thus aiding in lowering blood sugar levels. You will likely take metformin for the rest of your life and may need an increased dose as time goes on. This is because diabetes worsens over time. If metformin is no longer effective in managing your type 2 diabetes, you may then be required to start taking insulin injections also but this will be monitored by your doctor.
For more information on diabetes, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us online, by phone, or by visiting one of our local pharmacy branches. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms described above and feel you may be suffering from diabetes, speak to your GP immediately.
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