This article has been medically approved by Pharmacist Sumaiya Patel - GPhC Reg No: 2215078
Diabetes is a condition that occurs when our blood sugar levels become too high. Itís a lifelong condition that is managed rather than cured. Read our article below for the symptoms, causes, and treatments for diabetes.
Symptoms of diabetes
The main symptoms of diabetes are:
- feeling very thirsty
- peeing 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
If you experience these symptoms, you should visit your GP as soon as possible.
What causes diabetes?
Blood sugar (glucose) is our bodyís fuel and we get this from the food we eat. To maintain a constant blood-glucose level the body produces insulin tasked with the job of moving glucose from the blood into our bodyís cells where it gets broken down to form energy. If your body is having issues producing or using insulin, your blood sugar levels can get too high and cause diabetes.
There are two main types of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2.
Type 1 diabetes is caused the bodyís immune system attacks and destroys the cells that produce insulin.
Type 2 diabetes is linked to obesity. A diabetic person either lacks insulin or canít use the insulin it produces.
During pregnancy, some women may develop a temporary form of diabetes known as gestational diabetes. This is where your body canít produce enough insulin to meet your extra needs during pregnancy. It can happen at any time, but it is more common in the second or third trimester. Normally gestational diabetes will disappear after giving birth.
Some people have blood sugar levels that are above the normal range but not high enough to be diagnosed with diabetes. This is sometimes known as pre-diabetes, and it means that your risk of developing diabetes is increased. You can use a self-test kit to identify if you have pre-diabetes, or you can see your GP if you have any concerns.
How is diabetes treated?
To check if you have diabetes, your GP will test your urine for glucose (Ďsugarí). If sugar is found, youíll be given a special blood test called a Ďglucose tolerance testí which can determine whether or not you are diabetic.
Type 1 diabetics monitor their blood-glucose levels frequently and inject insulin (or use an implanted insulin infusion pump) to boost their insulin levels to regulate the amount of glucose in their blood. If they inject too much insulin, they risk becoming hypoglycaemic (whereby glucose levels fall too much) leaving them light-headed. If blood glucose falls too much a person can suffer insulin shock and go into a coma.
Type 2 diabetes is managed through eating healthily and taking regular exercise. As Type 2 diabetes is a progressive condition, medication (usually in tablet form) may also eventually be needed to ensure blood glucose is kept at normal levels. Regular blood tests will also need to be done to ensure that your blood glucose levels are staying balanced.
Diabetic eye screening
Everyone with diabetes who is aged 12 or over should be invited to an eye screening once a year. Diabetes can cause a condition called diabetic retinopathy which can cause sight loss if itís left untreated. Eye screening is a 30-minute check that examines the back of the eyes. If you are beginning to develop diabetic retinopathy, this screening will mean it is detected early and treated more effectively.
Alternative remedies/self help
There are no lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your risk of type 1 diabetes However, you can reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by eating healthily, taking regular exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight.