What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a common health condition that is life-long yet manageable. Around 3.2 million people in the UK are diagnosed with diabetes and large 630,000 people may have the condition and not even know it. The condition occurs when the level of glucose in your blood is too high because the body can’t use it properly, which is due to the pancreas not creating enough insulin or any insulin at all to help the glucose enter your body’s cells.

Glucose is a substance that is obtained from eating carbohydrate foods and is our body’s main source of energy. We need insulin in order to help our cells use the glucose and this particular hormone is produced in the pancreas to ensure your blood glucose levels do not get too high. However, if we don’t have the right levels of insulin to control our blood glucose levels; this means we are suffering from the condition diabetes taking form in either type 1 or type 2.


Type 1 diabetes:

Diabetes type 1 occurs when the pancreas is not producing any insulin to help control the glucose levels in the blood. This form of diabetes is the rarer of the two and only accounts for around 10% of diabetes cases. Although type 1 diabetes can occur at any age, it usually appears before the age of 40 and is the most common type in children. It is easily managed with daily insulin injections, a healthy diet and regular physical activity.


Type 2 diabetes:

This type of diabetes develops when the body is making some insulin, but it’s either no enough or does not work properly (insulin resistance). This form usually appears in individuals over 40 but it is becoming increasingly more common in children, adolescents and young adults of all ethnicities. Type 2 diabetes accounts for between 85-95% of cases and is managed with a healthy diet, regular exercise and often medication or insulin. This form of diabetes is a little more difficult to spot, as symptoms are no so obvious and can develop slowly over a number of years. Sometimes it is only picked up during routine medical check-ups and is quickly under control with treatment.


Signs and symptoms:

Signs and symptoms of type 1 diabetes are usually very obvious and develop quickly over the period of a few weeks; however they are quickly relieved when treatment begins. Type 2 diabetes on the other hand is a little more difficult to spot, as symptoms are no so obvious and can develop slowly over a number of years. Sometimes it is only picked up during routine medical check-ups and is quickly under control with treatment.

Diabetes symptoms to look out for include:

  • Needing to urinate more often than usual, especially during the night
  • Increased thirst
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Weight loss
  • Regular episodes of thrush or genital itching
  • Slow healing of cuts and wounds
  • Blurred vision
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